NO OFFICIAL WORD YET ON MANGAIA AID PACKAGE

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By Jonathan Harwood

AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (December 22 2001 – Cook Islands News)---No government aid has yet been sent to Mangaia as the island struggles to clean up after the recent devastating floods.

The Island Secretary says she has had no word from Rarotonga on an aid package since Cyclone Trina struck the island at the start of the month.

However Arthur Taripo, the Prime Minister’s Deputy Chief of Staff, said yesterday that aid totaling NZ$ 144,000 (US$ 59,760), including NZ$ 50,000 (US$ 20,750) from the government, was to be put at the disposal of Mangaia.

He said that as food stocks were satisfactory at the moment food aid would be sent next year, when the taro shortage begins to bite.

In the meantime, Mangaia is looking forward to the holiday period according to Island Secretary Tuaine Tuara.

"We are just beginning to dry out. We are not quite dry yet," she said. "Things are still pretty grim.

"At this stage we have had nothing at all from central government, no correspondence, no reports, nothing to say ‘we are going to give you this and that.’

"All we have seen is a copy of the infrastructure report and recommendations."

She said that there were rumors about food deliveries on the island but said that nothing had been confirmed.

"It is frustrating," she admitted. "We have already started work using machines and fuel that we didn’t budget for, but we have to use it.

"What we have started from last week is to initiate some immediate response.

"We are looking at priority areas to save what taro shoots there are left.

"We have started in the Ivirua district and spent about three or four days there."

But she said that there was not much hope of saving more than a small amount of taro.

She explained that, paradoxically, a lot of plants on higher ground now need water urgently, as the floods had washed away dykes.

Tuara added that there was enough food on the island for the holidays but added that the families who owned the plantations would only be able to salvage enough taro to feed themselves.

"We need to get the soil back out of the swamps," she said. "People cannot start planting unless we can remove that soil, and then, of course, we need the water to get back into the swamps."

She added that visitors to the island were bringing supplies with them and insisted that Mangaians were going to enjoy their Christmas celebrations despite the flooding.

"People always look forward to Christmas here. They like to see their family and friends and enjoy the social events.

"There are normally a lot of ceremonies at this time of year and people are having to buy taro from those that have it."

She added that she was waiting to see what would be on the next boat bound to Mangaia from Rarotonga.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online.

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