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‘It’s been a learning curve’

Saturday 22 January 2022 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Local, National

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‘It’s been a learning curve’
Director of Emergency Management Cook Islands (EMCI) John Strickland. 22012143

The newly appointed director of Emergency Management Cook Islands (EMCI) John Strickland admits he’s been in the “hot seat” this week.

“It’s been a learning curve,” Strickland, the former Cook Islands Police Inspector, said.

It started with a failed tsunami alert on Friday last week as boats received damage during high seas while owners tried to secure and move smaller vessels to high ground late in the evening.

It was then revealed the Ports Authority had not received any warning of a volcanic eruption generated tsunami.

It turned out Cook Islands Meteorological Service had not received the tsunami warnings from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii.

Strickland said questions remain.

“It was the delay in information, the fact we did not receive official notice.”

He said government officials, including the Prime Minister’s office are asking for an explanation.    

“On Friday when the Tonga tsunami came to my attention I went out and checked around.

“There was no information, I was frustrated.”

Strickland said he made his way to the western mariner where crowds of people were already gathered.

“There was so much debris, there were already crowds there.”

He described it as a frustrating experience.

“This was a unique situation.

“I looked at the main basin and at that very moment I could see the surge coming in.”

Strickland said Cook Islands is well versed in preparedness for such events.

“Our people know, there have been awareness programmes which are continuing.

“The outer islands also have their own management systems.”

He said Cook Islands weather has a “mind of its own”.

“The winds that showed up on Sunday were unusual.”