Saturday, February 27

Cyclone Pat appeal at Punanga Nui market

This video shows some of the entertainment organised by the Aitutaki community on Rarotonga to fundraise for cyclone Pat victims.
We had great weather and a large number of tourists and locals turned out in support. The fundraising is going very well with overseas Cook Islanders also doing a great job to help the families back home.
There was some controversy about the Aitutaki Sharks rugby league boys coming to Raro for their game against the Ngatangiia Sea Eagles. Some people – on Rarotonga at least – thought they should have stayed at home and got on with the repairs. Well they’ve all been working flat out since the cyclone and the boys themselves said Aitutaki is sports mad and they were doing it to raise morale. In the end it was a close match but the Sea Eagles won and all the gate takings were donated to the fund, over $1000, so it was a good day’s work anyway.
Back on the island repairs are going well, roads are clear, electricity and water are under control and most of the tourist accommodation is up and running. Tourists are needed to pump money back into the economy.
Meanwhile a cyclone Sarah, has been hovering around the region. Winds caused damage in Penrhyn and it’s above Palmerston, moving very slowly, and Aitutaki is on the edges of the wind and rain and is getting more very bad weather. It’s a worry for the people who have been housed in tents while their homes are being repaired but plans have been made to get everyone under cover if things get worse although it seems to be fading away.
On top of all that, the Pacific also had a tsunami warning this morning because of a major earthquake in Chile.
Generally speaking our islands are very small compared to the wavelength of tsunami waves so we don’t get the massive walls of water - it goes around us rather than over the top. But we could still get flooding of low lying areas.
We had a tsunami alert in September last year and the response here was shambolic. Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga were all hit and 189 people were killed, mostly in Samoa. Here a lot of people drove up a nearby hill causing a bit of a traffic jam while others went down to the harbour to watch. (The water drained out and then flowed back in again but quite slowly I believe.)
The main complaint was that nobody seemed to know what was going on.
Well, this time it was much better organised. Warning sirens went off in the early hours of the morning in the places that have them (Arorangi!) and people went around the island getting everyone to move inland or uphill. The RNZAF Hercules had been on the airport tarmac but it took off and circled the island until the danger was over.
I live up a hill so I slept through the whole thing. First I knew about it was getting up to let the dog in and seeing a bunch of people on the next hillside sheltering under a marquee and looking cold and wet. They headed back to cars and trucks and drove off a short while later. Must have been tourists.
Town was very quiet and some shops were boarded up this morning but once again Rarotonga has been very lucky.