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Cook Islands on cyclone alert

Wednesday January 23, 2013 - 14:56 EDT

The Cook Islands is on cyclone alert as Tropical Cyclone Garry continues to move across the Pacific.

The category three cyclone is moving away from Samoa and American Samoa where it caused very little damage.

Only a handful of banana trees have reportedly fallen in American Samoa, but rains and strong winds remain in some areas of the US territory.

Senior meteorologist Mase Akapo from American Samoa's Weather Bureau has told Radio Australia's the cyclone is expected to intensify over the next 24 to 48 hours as it moves towards the Cook Islands.

"Tropical cyclone Garry at the moment is a Cat 3, the winds near the centre are about 65 knots, so it's a a minimum hurricane category," he said.

High alert

"It's sitting at about 60 nautical miles north-east of Manu'a and is moving east at about seven knots.

"At that rate of speed it's going to be approaching the Cooks in about 24 hours."

Samoa was on high alert, with the storm hitting a month after cyclone Evan ravaged the country and severely damaged the capital, Apia.

Strong winds and rain are still reported in parts of American Samoa and a gale warning remains in force for the Manu'a island group.

Other potential cyclonic systems are brewing for the Pacific region.

Earlier, Mulipola Titimaea, from Samoa's National Disaster Management Office, told Pacific Beat the Garry system was unpredictable.

Busy season

Mr Titimaea said it was similar to last month's devastating cyclone Evan "in character and formation, so we've learnt from that it's unpredictable."

The forecaster said: "If you compare it with (tropical cyclone) Evan . . . Evan was predicted to move south-west, but it moved north-east."

Garry was a very small system. "Some forecasters and scientists call them 'black swan' because it's hard to pick up the intensity from the radar centre."

Mr Titimaea said there was another depression to the east but it is very weak. "There's also an interesting one to the west (by Vanuatu and Solomon Islands) which could be forming again where the depression of Garry formed.

"It's a very busy season for us Pacific forecasters."

Two hundred school students in Fiji will take classes in temporary shelters for at least a month after damage caused by cyclone Evan.

Schools reopened this week for the first time since cyclone Evan hit in December, causing an estimated $US43 million damage.

Manasa Tagicakibau, director of the National Disaster Management Office, says the rebuilding of school buildings damaged by Evan continues, so temporary shelters have been erected.

"We have had 14 schools that were badly damaged, and these were the schools that we've erected temporary shelters for," the director sid.

"Apart from those 134 schools, other schools were badly damaged which the school children can still use the buildings while repair work carries on."


© ABC 2013

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