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Fiji Time: 11:36 PM on Wednesday 23 April

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Storm safe

Maciu Malo
Saturday, December 22, 2012

A 66-YEAR-OLD Yasawa widow frantically dug through sand under her home as the fury of Tropical Cyclone Evan whipped roofs off dwellings, smashed through buildings and threatened the lives of her grandchildren.

Ruci Katonitabua of Namara Village on Wayalailai said she would never forget what happened on Monday night when Evan unleashed destructive force winds in an area often referred to as the gateway to paradise.

In an interview with The Fiji Times in her village family home, Ms Katonitabua relayed her account of courage and determination as the only thought on her mind were the lives of her four grandchildren.

At the height of the cyclone, Ms Katonitabua said the noise was deafening and she could feel the house shaking.

Thinking she and her family were minutes from death, she cleared floorboards and began digging in the sand, making a refuge for her and her grandchildren to shelter in.

"I had no other choice. We couldn't run to another house because of the flying roofing iron and objects being thrown around by the cyclone," Ms Katonitabua shared.

"All we could think of was to dig a hole in the sand under the floor.

"After digging we put a mat inside and then used a tarpaulin to cover our heads.

"We stayed there for about two hours as the wind intensified and all we could do was to hold each others' hands and pray hoping the wind would calm down.

"We were later joined by my son who was checking all households at the height of the cyclone.

"After two hours of lying in the sand we were evacuated by some villagers to another house."

Ms Katonitabua said the fury of TC Evan was unlike any cyclone she had experienced before.

"We had just returned from Lautoka when the cyclone struck.

"This cyclone was one of the worst disasters to hit our village. It has left many families homeless.

"But I thank Almighty God for saving my life and for keeping my grandchildren safe."

Villagers on the island said TC Evan began its onslaught at 1pm and the ordeal lasted until at least 9pm before the winds subsided.