Cyclone Percy devastates tiny island nation

The tiny Pacific island nation of Tokelau called for food and medical supplies on Saturday after suffering heavy damage from tropical Cyclone Percy.

As the powerful storm headed towards American Samoa’s Swains Island, residents on the New Zealand-administered Tokelau islands began counting the cost of the battering from gale-force winds and high seas.

One person was seriously injured when cut by flying debris, two people had to be rescued after being washed out to sea and seven houses were washed away, Tokelau Telecommunications general manager, Tino Vitale, told the Australian-Pacific Centre for Emergency and Disaster Information.

The injured man was on Fakaofo atoll, which does not have a doctor.

Tokelau’s administrator Neil Walters told Radio New Zealand the cyclone inflicted widespread damage and he would be seeking food and medical supplies from Wellington.

“There’s damage to the infrastructure ... the roads have been broken up, the power system is down, a lot of damage to buildings, a lot of equipment lost, boats scattered all over the island, along with debris and building materials and so on,” he said.

The only school on the main atoll of Nokonunu was destroyed.

American Samoa Emergency Operations commander Ben Sili said all communication with Swain’s Island was down but damage was expected to be similar to that on Tokelau.

On its present course, Percy was forecast to pull away from Swain’s Island and pass between Niue and the Cook Islands as a category three to four cyclone on a scale where five is the most powerful.

Authorities in Tuvalu, Tokelau, Samoa, American Samoa, Wallis and Futuna, Fiji, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga and French Polynesia were urged to continue monitoring Percy’s progress in case there was any sudden change of direction, and were warned of likely coastal flooding.

Due to damage from cyclones Olaf, Nancy and Meena in this part of the Pacific in recent weeks, some island areas previously impacted will be more vulnerable, forecasters said.—Sapa-AFP


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