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NEWS SPECIAL
FIVE WEEKS OF FURY
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Over the course of five weeks - from the beginning of  February to early March, 2005 - Cook Islanders  felt as though they were in the middle of a war zone.  But their fight was not against another nation, but the forces of nature in the shape of Cyclones Meena, Nancy, Olaf, Percy and Rae.  Amazingly, and thankfully, no one was hurt. 

Through pictures, reports from news services around the world and the local newspapers -  the Cook Islands News and the Cook Islands Herald - a story unfolded of widespread damage, fear and a determination not to be beaten as the fury of winds and waves lashed the tiny, islands nation.  Something of that story is told on these pages.   All sources are acknowledged.  Click here for a map from Cook Islands News which shows the course of the five cyclones (opens in new window).
CYCLONE MEENA
Power supplies were cut, trees blown down and a lot of structural damage was caused.  But the cyclone changed direction when it was just north of the capital island, Rarotonga.  Winds reached up to 70 mph (100 kph), but this was less than half the strength which had first been forecast.  A full emergency operation swung into force to protect islanders.
These dramatic pictures show the full force of the winds and waves on the waterfront in Avarua, Rarotonga.  One report said the waves reached nearly a quarter of mile inland at one stage and Radio Australia reported they were nearly 30 feet (9 metres) high.

The famous Trader Jack's restaurant on the water front in Avarua, Rarotonga was among nearly a dozen businesses which were all but destroyed by huge waves.  The owner, Jack Cooper estimates it will cost about NZ$600,000 (UK£228,000, US$429,500) to repair.  But Jack was back in business within a few days..even though it wasn't quite what regulars were used to.  He was using a shipping container as a makeshift bar.  He called it "Meena and Leaner Jack in the Box"!
Pictures are courtesy of Leilani Sadaraka's uncle in Rarotonga.
After the cyclone 1
After the cyclone 3
After the cyclone 2
After the cyclone 4
The full force of the damage only became apparent when the winds and waves receded.   The New Zealand and Australian Governments are offering special aid to the islands to help with a clean up and rebuilding programme estimated at tens of millions of NZ dollars.

Repair work on Rarotonga is expected to cost more than NZ$7 million (UK£2.65 million, US$4.96 million) according to reports from the Ministry of Works and the Cook Islands Investment Corporation.  The wharf alone is expected to cost NZ$200,000 (UK£75,888, US$141,700) to repair.
Pictures from Cook Islands Herald and AFP

AND A FINAL THOUGHT ABOUT CYCLONE MEENA FROM A VERY YOUNG ISLANDER...

Cyclone Meena was dangerous because it broke my grandma's plants.
I felt sad because they died.

By Tiahuia Pittman, Year 3, Te Uki Ou school.   First published by Cook Islands News
CLICK ON ANY PICTURE FOR A LARGER IMAGE IN A NEW WINDOW
The tattoo parlour amid the rising waters
Trader Jack's take the full force of the cyclone
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