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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Feb. 3) - French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse has called on "all nations close to the Pacific" to come to the aid of the tiny Pacific island of Niue in reconstruction efforts following heavy damage caused in early January by cyclone Heta.

Flosse’s appeal for aid occurred as he made a personal inspection Sunday of the cyclone damage on Niue.

"It’s not just a question of solidarity, it’s a matter of avoiding too much emigration and perhaps even the disappearance of this community," Flosse told Tahitipresse.

"We’ve got some 60 members of the (French) Polynesia Intervention Group (GIP) here, but that seems to be insufficient in view of the extent of the work to be done," Flosse said.

The GIP team arrived on Niue 15 days ago with the task of cleaning up the rubble, but also building 20 cyclone-resistant homes, known in Tahiti as "MTR Fares" for homeless families. Foundations have been finished for four such homes.

Niue Prime Minister Young Vivian said Tahiti’s aid had "boosted the population’s morale"at a time when some Niue residents are considering leaving for New Zealand, where they also have citizenship.

The prime minister is hoping for more aid, particularly for 20 additional families who are still without homes.

"I’ve asked the French government to participate in the reconstruction of 20 additional homes," Vivian said. "If it’s not possible, I think that the best interlocutor capable of helping us remains French Polynesia."

Flosse said he planned to prepare a report for French President Jacques Chirac so that France could devote greater means of aid. "After having satisfied the prime minister’s request concerning the construction of the first 20 anti-cyclone homes, we’re going to see what other urgent needs exist.

"I think that we must participate in the reconstruction of the hospital, but that requires major spending in which we can’t be the only one paying for it. I’m going to ask the president of the Republic so that France also participates in this project," Flosse said.

For the people of Niue, international aid is very much appreciated. "I’ll never forget what the people of Tahiti have done for us," said Taumafai Fuhiniu, one of the first persons to move into a newly built MTR Fare. "There’s nothing that I can do return the favor, other than express my respect for them," he said, adding that he was disappointed in the little assistance that New Zealand has offered Niue.

February 6, 2004

Tahitipresse: www.tahiti.com


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