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By Ulamila Kurai Wragg

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, 18 Dec. 18)—It will be a bleak Christmas for the northern group people of Pukapuka after seven days of bad weather forced the inter-island boat to return to Rarotonga at the weekend with most cargo still on board.

While some islanders are mad with the Taio Shipping owned inter-island trader Te Kou Maru II, company director Tapi Taio said that the call to return to Rarotonga was made by the engineer since they were running low on fuel.

"The boat was anchored at Pukapuka for one week in rough seas and all that time they had the generators going because there were frozen goods on board," Taio said.

"Fuel was running low and the engineer had to make that call or they will drift back to Rarotonga."

Taio admits it was unfortunate that the weather improved after the boat had turned around. Apparently it turned fine on Saturday morning.

"For one whole week the boat was anchored there and the islanders brought out their boats to collect the cargo, but we are told that some contractors did not want to work in rough seas. Even one boat, I am told, was damaged."

A correspondent from the island said that it was "such a shameful, inhumane situation - many passengers both for Nassau (some had come across from Nassau) and Rarotonga were left stranded here and no one in authority seems to care."

After an appeal yesterday by the member of parliament for the island Vai Peua, government will now fund a diversion of the boat to the island in the weekend after Christmas.

Taio said that the boat will leave this weekend for Manihiki first and will divert to Pukapuka after that "so another seven days and they will get to Pukapuka, that will be after Christmas".

Peua, speaking from the island, said he was grateful to the deputy prime minister Sir Terepai Maoate and Taio for heeding his plea to bring the boat back to Pukapuka and off load the remaining cargo.

"There is hardly any food on the island. There was some offloaded but not enough to cater for the 600 plus people here right now," he said.

"We have people visiting from overseas and Nassau and Rarotonga, so we want the remaining cargo off loaded.

"We are eating just fish and uto and coconuts. We still have not been able to plant our taro swamps since the 2005 cyclones."

Peua said that the usual passage where boats off load on to a barge was too rough so the boat moved to the eastern side of the island to off load over the reef.

"We tried hard and it was hard work. We got the people off at night when it first arrived and the next day the passage was too rough for the cargo so we moved to the eastern side. The weather was far too dangerous."

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