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Costly clean up for Cook Islands after flash floods

By Lisa Williams-Lahari -

Flash floods this week in Rarotonga have taken residents and businesses by surprise.

Coastal homes and some businesses along the area between the international airport and the Punanga Nui Markets were flooded without warning late Tuesday night, with residents losing power.

Flooding in Rarotonga. Photo/ Tai Cummings.

Meanwhile some families abandoned homes flooded in water and headed for dry ground. 

Infrastructure Cook Islands director for Water and Sanitation Jaime Short estimates a quick clean up will cost around $100,000 NZD, but a long-term fix will cost more than $1 million.

She says there is work on long-term climate change forecasting, using information systems to predict and plan for building in flood-prone areas.

"When anyone wants to do coastal developments, we can say, 'Look this area is predicted to be under water in 30 years, so it's up to you to build there or not.'"

It's been 15 years since flash flooding levels were this serious for the affected areas, highlighting the challenges faced by anyone building near streams or flat lands.

Officials say the sudden downpour this week came on top of two weeks of steady rain. 

Heavy run-off from mountain areas flooded riverbanks, turned roads into waterways and wreaked havoc for some tourism and local business operators.

Tags: Cook Islands,