Cook Islands + 1 more

Cook Islands and Tokelau: Tropical Cyclone Percy - OCHA Situation Report No. 3

Situation Report
Originally published
Ref: OCHA/GVA -2005/0053
OCHA Situation Report No. 3
Cook Islands and Tokelau
Tropical Cyclone Percy
This situation report is based on the information provided by the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team deployed to the Cook Islands.

General Situation

1. From 6 February to 6 March 2005, the Cook Islands were hit by five tropical cyclones (Meena, Nancy, Olaf, Percy and Rae). Throughout the cyclones, no casualty was reported, but the two islands of Pukapuka and Nassau in the Northern Group were severely affected mainly by Cyclone Percy on 28 February. The Government has declared a state of emergency for the two islands. Damage assessments are in progress for the islands of Aitutaki, Atiu and Mauke in the Southern Group.

Situation in Pukapuka (population:630)

2. Although no casualties were reported, people are mentally and physically fatigued after the cyclones and need help from others to clear the debris and rebuild their lives.

3. Food supply: all local food crops were completely destroyed, so there is no immediate source of fresh food or alternative water reserve (e.g. coconuts) as they all have fallen and rotted. All taro plantations were inundated by seawater and are now rotting.

4. Water supply and sanitation: As of 10 March, people need to conserve potable water as only eight-day supply available on island. Contaminated water (saline water) can still be used for cleaning purposes but available only for 12 days. All toilets were destroyed. Outdoor ground pits are being used but these are very public and extremely primitive.

5. Health: A hospital is operational although it needs some more permanent repairs to roof and water system. Medicine stock is sufficient for 3months. Eight patients are being evacuated by air to Rarotonga on Monday.

6. Shelter/Housing: Only 10 houses are still usable. 140 houses were totally damaged by winds and wave action (roofs blown off and walls caved in). Many were completely demolished and no longer visible. 90% of huts along coastal regions were washed away. The Island Council has identified a school now used for an evacuation centre. However, there is also a need to start school again in order for some 200 students on the island to go back to school. No local building materials left on the island, so all need to be brought in by boat.

7. Logistics: Airport runway (1,550m wide and first opened in 1993) is clear and in good working order, but it will not be able to take a C-130 Hercules aircraft due to low compaction standard.

8. Environment: environmental impact on land and coastal regions caused by salt water in the soil and water tanks is significant. So is the impact on all island ecosystems by the strong winds.

9. Priority needs: Food, water, fuel, safety gear for locals and basic clearing equipment are urgently needed. A disaster response coordinator for six weeks and volunteers are also needed. For the next phase, building materials and clearing machinery will be needed. Asbestos in roofing tiles and water tanks will need to be collected safely and stored as it presents a long-term health risk to all inhabitants.

Situation in Nassau

10. It is known that Nassau was the other island that was seriously affected in the Northern Group but no assessment team has been landed on the island due to rough seas and no facility of airstrip. Damage assessment is urgently needed.

In-country Response

11. The National Disaster Management Plan was activated with the onslaught of Cyclone Meena and has been functioning at maximum levels for up to 4 weeks now. The 5-person Emergency Operations Committee (EOC) and the larger National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC) that is chaired by the Prime Minister have met almost daily for that length of time to decide on response measures and operations. The New Zealand High Commission, which also represents the Australian government, is represented on both Committees.

12. The operation of response activities on the outer islands is managed and coordinated by the Government Island Administrations, which work in close collaboration with the traditionally elected Island Mayors and Island Councils.

13. Transportation to the outer islands, Pukapuka and Nassau, remains the most critical constraint to the Government's efforts to conduct damage assessments and deployment of relief supplies and personnel to the affected areas. The high costs involved for charter flights by the only inter-island air service are also daunting although the Government has recourse to donor funds to cover some of these costs.

14. The shortage of experienced professional personnel in disaster assessment and coordination of relief operations in the outer islands is also an emerging problem after 4 weeks of emergency operations. Qualified tradesmen and women are also in high demand for Pukapuka and Nassau.

15. The local disaster management system has been completely focused on response to the cyclones for four weeks. There is certainly an element of fatigue at this level, which needs to be supported even more now than before.

16. The National Red Cross continues to give assistance to the affected populations in Pukapuka, Aitutaki and other islands.

International Response

17. The New Zealand government, through its High Commission office based in Rarotonga, has been extremely responsive and flexible with its assistance and support to the Government of Cook Islands throughout the period of the 5 cyclones, particularly in facilitating international assistance such as the military from French Polynesia.

18. NZAID has pledged NZD 200,000 and continues to work closely with the local authorities on the emergency response.

19. A private fishing boat owner in American Samoa is ready to transport up to 60 tons of fresh water, food and fuel within 4 days to Pukapuka. NDMC approved this yesterday. Other fishing vessels in the area have also indicated their willingness to drop supplies off to the affected islands and help out in way that they can.

20. French military assisted with clean up in Rarotonga after Percy and will be requested again by the Government to go to Pukapuka this weekend to start the cleanup process. The French had indicated they were willing to help by deploying 7-8 men this weekend. They will be fully self-sufficient and carry 2 small de-salinization plants with them and leave one behind on loan to Pukapuka.

21. There will be a Donor Meeting held on Monday 14 March to decide on how all donor funds will be utilized. Donors and agencies who are to attend that meeting incude NZAID/AUSAID, UNDAC and UNDP, ADB and the Red Cross.

22. The UNDAC team is assisting damage assessments in the affected islands in the Southern Group.

23. OCHA is in close contact with the UN Resident Coordinator's Office in Samoa and the UNDAC team, and will revert with further information as it becomes available.

This situation report, together with further information on other ongoing emergencies is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at

Telephone: +41-22-917 12 34
Fax: +41-22-917 00 23

In case of emergency only: Tel. +41-22-917 20 10

Desk Officers:
Mr. Soichi Nakajima, E-mail:, Direct Tel. +41-22-917 4034

Press contact:
(GVA) - Ms. Madeleine Moulin-Acevedo, direct Tel. +41-22-917 3160
(N.Y.) - Ms. Stephanie Bunker, direct Tel. +1-917-367 5126

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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