Fiji + 2 more

HFH New Zealand To Help Post-Cyclone Reconstruction In Fiji and Cook Islands

It Is Raising Funds And Mobilizing Volunteers With Expertise Gained From Rebuilding In Tsunami-Hit Samoa

AUCKLAND, 15th April 2010: Habitat for Humanity New Zealand wants to help Fiji and Cook Islands rebuild following the destructive impact of Cyclone Tomas last month and Cyclone Pat in February 2010 respectively.

HFH New Zealand is gaining expertise in rebuilding lives and homes from its response in tsunami-hit Samoa. It has appealed for donations and skilled volunteers to complement the work of HFH Fiji's own construction staff.

Cyclone Tomas passed over Fiji with winds averaging up to 280 kilometers-an-hour and waves caused by storm surges devastated many areas on 15th and 16th March. The cyclone was described as one of the longest lasting and most destructive to hit the South Pacific country.

Habitat also has a program where volunteers from New Zealand and Cook Islands will work together to rebuild homes for families on the island atoll of Aitutaki. The initiative will be designed along the lines of the current project in tsunami-ravaged Samoa. HFH New Zealand CEO Pete North calls on New Zealanders to "assist our neighbors rebuild their homes and lives."

HFH New Zealand aims to raise NZ$300,000 (US$210,000) to facilitate the rebuilding program in the Cook Islands, which lie more than 3,000 kilometers northeast of New Zealand's largest city, Auckland.

On 10th February 2010, Cyclone Pat struck Aitutaki. Strong winds, up to 200 km per hour, caused severe damage. Red Cross has estimated that about 98 houses have been completely destroyed and hundreds others extensively affected.

In the Pacific Island nation of Samoa, HFH New Zealand continues to send volunteer teams weekly to rebuild traditional houses, or fales, with the local people. Some 35 fales have either been completed or are under construction.

Larger volunteer numbers from New Zealand are making quicker work in tsunami-affected Samoa. Each construction team comprises two New Zealand volunteers and six Samoans. Each team focuses on a particular task, such as site preparation or putting in posts, and then moves onto a new location.

Diana Browning, a New Zealand volunteer who returned from Samoa, said: "The drive around the coast was very emotional. The destruction was just so widespread, the eerie silence on the truck said it all. Our team was in a state of shock. The debris was scattered everywhere with tents in and around it that people are living in. Seeing the footage on TV when it happened didn't give you an appreciation of how widespread it was. I had no idea that so much of this coast was affected."

"It was the hardest two weeks of my life, physically, emotionally and mentally...The local Samoan people were fantastic, friendly, accommodating, helpful, funny and very humble. There is still a lot of work to be done, but you can see that the little we have done is making a big difference," said Browning.

HFH New Zealand is working in partnership with the Samoan government to supervise construction of some 250 fales on selected sites on the tsunami-ravaged southeastern coast of Upolu in the villages of Salea'aumua, Saleapaga and Satitoa.

HFH New Zealand has raised NZ$605,000 (US$416,000) for its work in Samoa. Donors include World Vision New Zealand, ACC World Relief, ABS Community Trust, Brethren Missions, Anglican Missions, and numerous New Zealand churches. The Samoan government is providing NZ$3 million (US$2.1 million) - funding received from New Zealand and Australian government aid agencies.

On 29th September 2009, an earthquake of 8.3-magnitude triggered deadly tsunami waves that bashed into Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga. The tsunami killed around 200 people on the three islands. Some 20 villages were destroyed in Samoa, leaving 3,500 people homeless.