30 Mar 2005

Cooks government and NZ urged to clear up asbestos at cyclone-hit school

1:17 pm on 30 March 2005

The Cook Islands government is being urged to act more quickly to clean up asbestos dust from roofing wreckage at a school a month after Cyclone Percy hit the northern island of Pukapuka.

The New Zealand deputy high commissioner, Matthew Paterson, and a United Nations official have already visited the school, where 175 students are being kept away by the dust.

The head teacher Vaopaaki Tearetoa says face masks and clearing-up gear have been sent to the island but he's yet to see any...

"The thing that I'm very angry about is if this was happening on the main island of Rarotonga or Aitutaki, they'll kick up a fuss. Now it's happening on the remote island of Pukapuka, there's very little attention being focussed on this asbestos mess."

Mr Tearetoa says there's no drinking water at the school and there's been no rain since the cyclone.

He says two families who've been living in a classroom filled with broken asbestos have this morning been moved to the assembly hall, where the roof is made of aluminium.

A disaster relief committee was expected to have discussed the problem at a meeting in Rarotonga this morning.