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COOKS’ PENRHYN PICKS UP PIECES AFTER STORM Latest tropical storm took toll on roofs

By Helen Greig RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Feb. 23, 2010) – In the Cook Islands, a government delegation is due to head to Penrhyn today to assess reported damage from tropical depression 11F to homes and government buildings on Sunday night.

[PIR editor’s note: Penrhyn Island is the most remote and largest atoll of the 15 Cook Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. Land area is 9.84 square kilometers. Estimated population has reportedly shrunk from 600 to less than 300 hundred inhabitants.]

Cabinet approved an Air Rarotonga charter flight worth NZ$19,720 [US$13,600] to take finance minister and Penrhyn MP Wilkie Rasmussen and three officials to the island to carry out an initial damage assessment and take emergency supplies.

Rasmussen says cabinet was briefed early yesterday morning by police on the damage – 17 homes with roof damage, seven unoccupied dwellings with roof damage, and three-quarters of the Omoka school roof taken off. Other buildings also have roof damage. Communications were patchy to the island yesterday where Rasmussen says flooding was also causing concern.

The minister says the tropical depression had been right over the island when the damage occurred.

"They have estimated that the wind (speed) was 50 kilometres per hour, rather than the 35 (kilometres per hour) as forecast."

The depression was downgraded to a tropical disturbance yesterday.

Rasmussen says the next cargo shipment to the north may be redirected to go to Penrhyn with building materials first.

This has already caused concern for Pukapuka MP Vai Peua as Taio Shipping has received government assistance to take urgently needed cargo to the island after one failed voyage earlier this month. The ship is set to leave on March 10 for the northern group islands.

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