More and more nations across the Pacific are feeling the effects of sea swells flooding coastal areas as huge waves battered the Cook Islands and French Polynesia.
A month ago a similar phenomenon flooded islands and coastal areas in Fiji.
Reports have been received of swells measuring up to 4.5 metres inundating coastal areas. According to Cook Islands Meteorological Servives this was driven by a high pressure system pushing up from New Zealand.
The swells have damaged properties and infrastructure.
The Cook Islands emergency management director John Strickland said this was very unusual. He said the impacts were the most far reaching he had seen in a decade.
Rarotonga resident Anita Marona said she thought it was a tsunami and there was panic among some people.
“The sea just rushed in. First it was a small wave and then there was this huge wave that came in. The water was on the road and some people just stood still not knowing what to do,” she said.
“I don’t think if anyone is injured but homes have had water inside them.”
The Rarotongan Hotel reported damage to 40 of its beachfront villas and there have been reports of damage to the official residence of the Queen’s Representative of the Cook Islands, Sir Tom Marsters.
Low lying coastal areas in Puaikura District along with Titikaveka, in Takitumu District, were the most severely impacted areas.
National emergency operation teams were activated from three villages to support the infrastructure team as they were busy.
Emergency services remain on high alert and fresh warnings have been issued for the northern parts of the Cook Islands.
Cook Islands meteorological service director Arona Ngari said homes were evacuated in Titikaveka and Arorangi districts.
“There seems to be a couple of events that have exceeded expectations and that revolves around a couple of the high tides. So it is a pity, it is awful to see the damage from the high pressure system,” he said.
Guests at hotels in Rarotonga had a surprise as well as some of them had to wade out of their rooms.
Infrastructure Cook Islands is surveying the damage as roads have been damaged and in some areas they have started to work accordingly.
Similar reports have emerged from French Polynesia as well. The two nations are its nearest neighbours geographically and the high swells affected both.
The level of the ocean surrounding French Polynesia rose significantly and submerged roads and houses bordering the ocean on the west coast of Tahiti.
Media in French Polynesia reported that 15 houses on the coast were submerged and the homeowners evacuated after waves up to nine metres hit the coastal areas.