Yesterday the Royal New Zealand Navy Hydrographic ship HMNZS Resolution visited the Island of Pukapuka to deliver humanitarian aid and to provide technical and manpower assistance to the Island. Resolution is currently on a 6 week deployment to the South Pacific.
The Island is part of the Northern Cook Islands and was devastated by a number of cyclones earlier this year, the worst of which was Cyclone Percy. Families in Pukapuka whose homes were damaged by the cyclone more than 2 months ago are still being billeted in other homes and some occupy a school building.
Resolution loaded Red Cross humanitarian aid at Rarotonga before arriving at Pukapuka Island. On arrival at the Island a small team went ashore to coordinate the transfer of aid and to establish how the Ship could assist the Islanders in the short one day visit to the Island.
Lieutenant Commander Andrew McMillan led the planning team and said "our initial impressions of the Island were of a Pacific paradise in real need of assistance. The Island came close to running out of drinking water two days prior to our arrival and it was only through the first rain in close to a month falling yesterday that they had any water at all. Despite the hardships that these people have faced they remain amazingly positive and we were very warmly welcomed".
- nearly 3 tonnes of Red Cross food,
- 4500 litres of drinking water, and
- 3500 litres of diesel fuel for the school.
- The Ship's engineers repaired a front-end
loader vital for cyclone damage repair and for transporting building materials
around the Island.
- They also repaired the engine on one
of the Island's cargo lighters (which are used to transfer cargo ashore
through the tight reef passage from visiting cargo ships.)
- The Navy electronics technicians provided assistance in repairing and identifying problems to the telecommunications system.
The team was warmly welcomed to the Island with a short cultural ceremony, which included some of the wonderful Cook Islands singing. CPO Barry Waerea said "I found the singing fantastic and quite emotional".
Commander Dave Mundy, Commanding Officer of Resolution said "It was quite humbling to see just what the local people have had to endure since the cyclone - a feeling shared by all of the Ship's Company who worked hard throughout the day to render whatever assistance they could. It was extremely satisfying to see how the supplies and technical assistance provided during our visit will help those on the Island rebuild their lives".
Mrs Denise Temu, head of the Island Council and financial controller said "I am extremely grateful to Royal New Zealand Navy and especially the crew from the Resolution for their support. The aid comes at a time when we most urgently needed it and will provide us with a degree of comfort for the near future. We are in a great need of assistance here - the crew has worked very hard for us and we can only give our heartfelt thanks".
Waves close to 4 metres high came through the protective reef and through the lagoon smashing into houses. Coconut trees were broken in half and all of the Island's coconuts were removed from the trees by the force of the wind. Mrs Temu said that during the cyclone they took shelter in house and as the roof was blown away they moved to the next house and then the next moving further inland as each roof was blown off in succession. Seawater washed deep into the Island and the Island's Taro patch, a vital food source for the Island, was destroyed.
Despite the requirement to deliver aid to the Island, some of the crew of Resolution found time to participate in an Island soccer tournament in the afternoon. The team was beaten soundly, firstly by the opposition, but most definitely by the 36-degree heat and tropical sunshine.