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Asbestos clean-up equipment heading to Niue

Asbestos clean-up equipment heading to Niue

Special equipment will be sent to Niue this week to clean up asbestos roofing fragments amongst the rubble of buildings destroyed by Cyclone Heta, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today.

Respirators, overalls and sealable bags will be included in cargo going to the island on an RNZAF Hercules flight planned for Tuesday. The equipment will be used by a clean-up team of around 80 islanders, who will be trained on safe procedures for collecting the smashed roofing sheets, Mr Goff said.

“New Zealand and Australian experts on the island have identified an immediate health risk to residents from the smashed asbestos, and clean-up of affected areas has been suspended until the safety equipment arrives,” Mr Goff said.

“The experts, including two from Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) already on Niue, will train the Niuean clean-up team how to safely collect the material into sealable bags, where it will be stored for later removal off the island and proper disposal at an asbestos destruction facility.”

Houses built on the island in the 1960s and 1970s following earlier cyclones contained asbestos building materials. An NZAID team had been scheduled to visit the island later this month to develop plans for removing the asbestos, much of which is on buildings that are now unoccupied.

“Asbestos was used at a time when the health risks were not well understood,” Mr Goff said. “Cyclone Heta has added urgency to plans that were already underway for removing the material.”

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