Stories of resilience and survival emerge from remote Fijian villages

Publié: 22 avril 2016 10:24 CET

By Salote Maramaciriciri, Fiji Red Cross

As Fiji Red Cross staff reach more and more remote villages, providing psychosocial support to those affected by Tropical Cyclone Winston, stories of survival are emerging amongst the rubble.

The tale of 49-year-old grandmother Kelera Leba Nakena is just one of many lucky escapes the Red Cross teams have heard about while talking to survivors of the category 5 cyclone.

Kelera’s house in Nukulau village, Ra province, is sitting upside down on its tin roof, its foundation poles pointing to the sky, 12 metres away from its original site.

She recounts how she and her seven-year-old grandson Rusiate Vanavana sought refuge in the bedroom as the wind started picking up at around 5pm on the night of 20 February.

“We held hands and started to pray for protection. My children’s faces flashed before my eyes and I thought of my late husband. I looked up to the heavens for strength and kept praying for their safety,” she says.

“As it got darker, we crawled under the bed and hugged each other. I held my grandson close to me and had my phone in my hand. All of a sudden, there was this strong wind that lifted the house up and a loud bang. I shouted ‘Lord Help Us’.

“I was still holding my grandson and then I remembered that I had my phone in my hand. I turned it on and shone the light to see what had happened and to my surprise I was actually looking up at the floor where the roof was supposed to be.”

Kelera and Rusiate ran to a cousin’s house for shelter, escaping their ordeal with just scratches and bruises. In the morning when dawn came and the wind had died down, she went to look at her house.

“All the villagers came out to see what had happened to their homes. When we saw the state of my house we thanked God for his protection over our lives. The winds blew my house 12 metres from the foundations,” she says.

Kelera and her grandson have received emergency aid from the Fiji Red Cross, including tarpaulins and solar lanterns. The Red Cross will also help them rebuild their toilet, while the villagers are rebuilding the family home.