17 Mar 2015

Storm damage in Chatham Islands

8:10 pm on 17 March 2015

The remnants of Cyclone Pam continues to batter the Chatham Islands, cutting power to about 40 households after a tree fell on power lines.

A photo posted on Facebook shows the storm in the Chatham Islands today.

Photo: Marlon Thomas

A state of emergency is in place, with the occupants of up to 20 coastal homes ordered to leave their properties as a precaution yesterday still unable to go home.

Winds peaked at about 80 kilometres an hour, with gusts of up to nearly 110 kilometres this morning.

Mayor Alfred Preece said some elderly residents without power were moved to a welfare centre for the night.

"We've got power back on to the EOC [Emergency Operation Centre]. The power for the other consumers is expected to be back on probably late tomorrow at the earliest but it could be Thursday morning."

Mr Preece said a wharf, at the north end of the island, had been badly damaged and some house had suffered minor damage.

Cyclone Pam

Cyclone Pam over the Chatham Islands Photo: Metservice

Families shelter at marae

Many families on the island have taken refuge at Kopinga Marae.

Kopinga Marae on the Chatham Islands will host more than 100 people who have been evacuated.

Kopinga Marae Photo: Hokotehi Moriori Trust

One resident said many of the roads had been flooded out or strewn with debris; she was staying at home because it was impossible to make it back to the marae.

She said the island had been battered so hard by the storm that it snapped the flag pole at Kopinga Marae.

She said making and receiving phone calls had been touch and go, and she was using a CB radio to keep in contact with the marae and Civil Defence.

In the meantime, families at the marae were being fed, kept entertained by DVDs and were keeping calm as the storm passed over.

A photo posted on Facebook shows the storm in the Chatham Islands today.

A photo posted on Facebook shows the storm in the Chatham Islands today. Photo: Marlon Thomas

A photo posted on Facebook shows the storm in the Chatham Islands today.

Photo: Marlon Thomas

Early warning helpful

Mr Preece said it was fortunate the Chatham Islands had plenty of warning of Pam's approach.

"We've asked people to secure their properties and make sure things like trampolines are tied down," he said.

"And the fishing community have shifted their boats and secured their boats on higher grounds, those that are one trailers."

The storm was expected to lie about 260 kilometres northeast of the Chatham Islands early this afternoon and just to the east later tonight.

MetService warned residents there to prepare for severe gales, heavy rain and large swells.

They were also urged to ensure they had enough food and clean water to last several days.

Earlier, Kaingaroa Village resident Chris Morrison said the community was well-prepared for stormy weather but this looked like it could be serious.

"At this stage, it's probably bigger now than anything we've seen, certainly since 1986 when the last significant damage occurred here."

Local schools were closed and will likely remain closed tomorrow.

MetService warned high winds, rain and heavy swells could last until Wednesday night.

Civil Defence available to help

The Civil Defence Minister said the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) would be available to help out in the Chatham Islands if needed.

Nikki Kaye said she had been in touch with the NZDF to let them know they may be needed in the Chathams, depending on the severity of the storm.

The now ex-cyclone pounded the East Coast of the North Island yesterday closing roads and forcing evacuations.

It also devastated Vanuatu over the weekend, destroying buildings and killing 24 people.

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