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Response team due in Aitutaki

Thursday 11 February 2010 | Published in Regional

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Police commissioner Maara Tetava said they are hoping to make a quick assessment of the situation on Aitutaki before a response team leaves for the island today.

Tetava, who assumed the position of national disaster controller, said two officers were onboard one of two Air Rarotonga aircraft which flew to Mauke to shelter from the cyclone.

The two aircraft then flew to Aitutaki just after two.

The flight was to conduct an aerial survey of the island and check out the condition of the airport.

Earlier yesterday, Aitutaki resident Mike Henry reported that the airport was clear of debris.

“If all goes well we will have a team on the ground tomorrow [Thursday],” said Tetava.

The police patrol boat Te Kukupa is also on standby to go to Aitutaki if needed.

Tetava said a team is being put together by EMCI director Charles Carlson which will also include Telecom technicians and Te Aponga Uira (power) staff.

Tetava said that initial reports paint a grim picture on the ground in Aitutaki.

Up to 70 power poles have been blown over and it is estimated that it could take some weeks to fully restore power. When power was cut in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Aitutaki hospital switched over to an emergency generator.

Tetava said that to date there was only one report of a female gashing her leg and being admitted to hospital.

The national emergency operating centre (NEOC) was activated yesterday morning and is working out of the Telecom Cook Islands building in Parekura.

There were no commercial Air Rarotonga flights up to mid-afternoon yesterday.

One flight took off just after 4pm for Aitutaki.

Airport authority’s chief executive officer Joe Ngamata said that they had been in contact with their counterparts in Aitutaki during Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.

According to photos seen by Cook Islands News, the tiles were blown off the roof of the terminal.

Air New Zealand’s manager David Bridge said late yesterday that the early Thursday morning flight was to arrive as per schedule but that they were constantly monitoring the situation.

Met service director Arona Ngari said that the height of the hurricane would have been at 2am yesterday morning with reports of winds up to 100 knots (185kph) near the centre.

At 8pm last night, Pat was around 150 nautical miles to the northwest of Rarotonga and moving in a southwesterly direction.