Fragile buildings cyclone concern

Tuesday December 08, 2015 Written by Published in Weather
 A deserted home reduced to rubble.  10021016 A deserted home reduced to rubble. 10021016

With the Cook Islands now into the cyclone season, fragile buildings around Rarotonga have become a concern for the Emergency Management Cook Islands (EMCI).


The effects of the dwindling Cyclone Tuni which turned into a low pressure system before hitting the Cook Islands caused some infrastructural damage last week.

And staff at the disaster management office says they are aware of buildings on Rarotonga that could pose significant danger in an event of a cyclone.

EMCI director Charles Carlson said the onus was on the property owners to ensure their buildings were secured well enough to withstand the brunt of natural disasters, especially  cyclones.

A review was also needed on how to secure dangerous buildings before they became a threat, he said.

“There are many domestic houses and building that may pose danger in an event of a cyclone but the responsibility lies with the owners to secure their properties.

“This is an area that is to be addressed in our legislature review on how to deal with these hazards before they actually become a threat to other properties and human lives.”

Another challenge the department is facing is identifying buildings fit to be used as safety shelters during a cyclone or some other natural disaster.

Carlson said there were no designated or certified safety shelters as such apart from using some of the school property and more sturdy community buildings.

“The past practices has been to look around for a building and call it a safety shelter without proper assessment of the building by engineers or building inspectors whether it’s actually fit for safety shelter.

“We are meeting with the various villages on Rarotonga to confirm their disaster risk management structure, and secondly, to review the proposed safety shelters in each village.”

Carlson said the aim of the meeting was to identify buildings that could be certified as primary safety shelters.

There was also a need to identify secondary shelters that could be used for temporary accommodation after a natural disaster for those whose homes had been destroyed.

“We have many community halls on the island that may be not fit for a primary shelter but are okay for secondary shelters.

“We had people demanding that new buildings should be constructed for safety shelters, but that is unrealistic.

“We still have vulnerable atoll islands out there like Palmerston, Rakahanga, Nassau and Penhryn that desperately need safety shelters.”  

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