NZ Aid for Cyclone Hit Cooks

  • Don McKinnon
Foreign Affairs and Trade

An RNZAF Hercules is scheduled to fly emergency supplies to the cyclone-swept northern Cook Islands early tomorrow morning, Foreign Affairs Minister Don McKinnon said today.

There are conflicting reports about casualties. Cyclone Martin caused widespread damage to the islands of Manihiki and Rakahanga over the weekend.

Mr McKinnon received a request for assistance from the Cook Islands Government today and said an RNZAF Hercules would fly up to the islands as soon as relief supplies could be loaded.

"The Hercules will fly tarpaulins, water containers, blankets and communications equipment to Rarotonga, where food and medical supplies will be added for the flight to Manihiki," Mr McKinnon said.

"Relief of supplies by ship will take several days to get to the islands and the local aircraft have very limited carrying capacity, so the Hercules flight will play an important part in getting badly needed supplies to the cyclone-hit areas as soon as possible."

"New Zealand will consider further requests for assistance once a full assessment of the damage has been received," Mr McKinnon said.

Manihiki, an atoll with a population of 700, has been almost completely flattened by Cyclone Martin and 11 injured people are due to be flown out to Rarotonga this afternoon. Just four buildings remain standing on Manihiki while seven buildings have been destroyed on the small neighbouring island of Rakahanga (population 250) and the medical centre and post office on nearby Pukapuka have been badly damaged.

Widespread damage to crops and black pearl farms have been reported throughout the northern Cook Islands, which are over 1500km north of Rarotonga.