OCHA Situation Report No. 4
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) teams deployed to the Cook Islands and Tokelau.
Situation in the Cooks Islands (Pukapuka and Nassau)
1. The affected islands of Pukapuka and Nassau remain in a state of national emergency.
2. Eight medical patients were evacuated to Rarotonga today. It is reported that children suffer diarrhoea from drinking fermenting coconuts and contaminated water.
3. For the emergency response phase, food, fuel and water remain the main priorities.
4. The UNDAC team has completed assessments in the islands of Mauke and Atiu in the Southern Group and confirmed that these islands are not in any state of emergency although secondary threats were identified and need to be addressed by the Government in order to prevent further deterioration.
Situation in Tokelau
5. The UNDAC team has visited the three atolls of Fakaofo, Nukunonu and Atafu. The team spoke to the Council of Elders of each of the three atolls, walk around each main island to visit disaster sites and travelled to several outer islands, which are used for a range of purposes from agricultural plantations, to cemeteries, to rubbish repositories. Below are the results of the assessment by sector.
6. Overall damage and Sea walls: Significant damage was seen on all three atolls, with Nukunonu being the worst hit. A strong difference was evident between the places with had a protective sea wall and those that did not. Many of the villagers believed that, if the sea walls had not been present, much of their villages would have been swept away. The cyclone has also caused a great deal of damage to the sea walls on all the islands. This will need considerable repair if it is to protect the villages from future cyclone damage.
7. Erosion: Extensive beach erosion was present on each island, with some experiencing the loss of several meters width along many meters of coast line. This is starting considering the land mass of Tokelau.
8. Vegetation: Damage to vegetation was one of the main impacts of the cyclone. All atolls have lost much of their staple crops, particularly the swamp taro, which has been inundated with salt water and though attempts have been made to save it, is largely likely to rot. Most of the crops of bananas and pawpaws have been lost. Loss to coconut crops have varied from island to island, but will have a major impact on each atoll, taking up to two years to be replaced. The loss of the coconut crop is important as it is used both for food and for drink on the islands.
9. Marine environment: Damage has also occurred to the marine environment, with many live corals being covered in sand and debris, and much of the fish habitats destroyed. The people of Tokelau rely very heavily on the ocean for their diet and livelihood, so this is also and important area of impact.
10. Debris clearing: Through much of the clean up has taken place on Fakaofo and Atafu, this has diverted the activity of the whole village from its normal tasks. On Nukunonu, where the impact was greatest, there is still a lot of debris to be cleared. A large amount of broken glass and rusty metal still lies around the island and represents a significant health risk.
11. Waste Management: it is an ongoing problem on the islands, and now presents the problem of what to do with the debris.
12. Schools and medical equipment: A range of damage has occurred to schools and hospitals, with a lot of school equipment lost or damaged and some loss to the minimal medical equipment available at the hospitals.
13. Health issues have so far been fairly minimal, with only one major injury experienced. A number of cases of diarrhea have occurred and are associated with overflowing septic tanks, which are present on all three atolls. There is also a rise in the number of mosquitoes. Local say that they have often had outbreaks of dengue fever associated with previous cyclones.
Response to the Cook Islands
14. There are several boats in the northern Cooks Region that can assist in the transportation of goods and machinery from Pago Pago port to Pukapuka and Nassau. The boats include:
- French Polynesian Government sea vessel: The French Polynesian Government has mobilized personnel to Pukapuka for the clean up who is presently on stand-by. They have a sea vessel on patrol around the Northern Cooks region, which can be used for transporting machinery to Pukapuka, and also an aircraft for personnel and lighter relief goods.
- The Kukupa: ?he Cook Island Government patrol boat) has now been designated to service the sea passage between Pukapuka and Nassau.
- John and Veronica Haskin’s fishing vessels: The vessel in Pago Pago will depart tomorrow for Pukapuka taking 30 tons of food and a desalination plant that can produce 30,000litres of water per day. Another one of the Haskin’s vessels will also leave tomorrow from Pago Pago with 50tons of food and 1,000litres of water.
15. Ministry of Internal Affairs will send up a tent (12’ by 20’ dimensions) to Pukapuka possibly to be used as the relief centre thereby freeing up the school building for schooling to commence as early as possible.
16. The Sanitarium Health Foods head office in Australia has offered to supply up to one month’s supply of health foods to Pukapuka and Nassau (e.g. weetbix, cornflakes, fruit bars, etc). These goods are to be shipped from Pago Pago if possible.
17. Red Cross will assist in developing the food list for purchase in Pago Pago and provide whatever other assistance is needed for setting up the relief centre.
18. About 20 volunteers for clearing and building have been organized by Internal Affairs and will travel on the Miss Mataroa to Pukapuka. Heavy machinery will be carried on the boat to address clearing and building materials.
Response to Tokelau
19. An initial delivery of relief supplies, including food, water and other basics has arrived on the atolls. This was funded by the contributions from New Zealand, Australia, UNDP, Samoan community groups and Tokelauans in New Zealand.
20. The goods have been accompanied at all times by a representative of the Government of Tokelau who ensured that the distribution of the goods was appropriate and that it has been targeted at women and children. The goods were much appreciated and the Council of Elders in Nukunonu noted that this is the first time in the history of disasters o Tokelau that this level of assistance and attention from the international community has been received.
21. 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 http://www.reliefweb.int.
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