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Haunting in the hills

Avinesh Gopal
Tuesday, January 01, 2013

ARE the spirits of the dead in our midst?

Do they come and visit us and try to say something?

Or do they cry out for help and send a chill through your body and make your hair stand?

For some people, the answer would be "yes" but for others these questions are a laughing matter.

Those who have been through some spooky experiences would agree that the dead do live among us.

And those who do not agree that the dead live among us would continue to believe so until they hear of experiences or experience something themselves.

Up in the highlands of Lautoka, the voices of the dead and their cries for help are heard often by villagers.

These are the voices and cries for help of villagers who were buried by a massive landslide 82 years ago.

The story has it that a deaf woman was able to hear a chunk of the mountain coming, tumbling down towards the village.

But others were just too busy drinking yaqona and singing that they ignored the deaf woman's views.

The ignorance was simply because the woman was deaf.

It was believed to have been around midnight on February 22, 1931 when a chunk of Mount Batilamu in Lautoka broke.

Stories passed down from the three survivors reveal a part of the mountain broke after two weeks of continuous heavy rain and strong winds.

As it broke and went tumbling down, it buried everything in its path, including the old Nagaga Village.

The only survivors were Rupeni Sau, Levani Kubu and Livai Lobau, who later settled in an area they named ABACA.

Mr Sau's son Viliame Rokoua, 64, is the headman of Abaca Village.

The village is located on the mountains 16 kilometres away from Lautoka City and three kilometres from the buried Nagaga Village.

Abaca is an eco-tourism centre, with tourists and even locals flocking there to enjoy the beauty of nature.

Mr Rokoua was born in the present Abaca Village but his father relayed stories to him about the tragic incident as he was growing up.

"The landslide happened at night during a cyclone and it destroyed everything including the old Nagaga Village," he said.

"The three survivors, including my father, were also buried in the landslide but they somehow managed to crawl out from a gap they found.

"About 200 people were killed in the massive landslide and their voices and cries can still be heard at the buried village."

Mr Rokoua said the voices and cries could only be heard if a person goes to the buried village site alone.

He said the voices and cries were coming closer to the village now, especially at the entrance.

After having a chat with Mr Rokoua, he allowed The Fiji Times team to visit the buried Nagaga Village and take pictures too.

Our guide Waisale Muatini, 32, gave his version of the stories that he had heard from his ancestors about the haunting.

"If you are going up alone in the buried village site, you will hear people talking or even crying for help," he said.

"When you are alone, you will hear someone talking in front but when you go fast and check, there is no one there."

Asked if he had experienced it, Mr Muatini laughed and reiterated that "voices and cries can be heard if you are there alone."

He led us to the buried Nagaga Village and showed us certain places there, including a similar spot like that from where the three survivors crawled out to safety.

Mr Muatini pointed up to the spot at Mount Batilamu, which broke and went tumbling down towards Nagaga Village.

"I can only imagine what it was like for the villagers as it was late into the night when the tragedy happened," he said.

"From what I heard, a deaf woman in Nagaga Village heard the rumbling sound coming from up in the mountains.

"She told the other villagers but they continued drinking grog and singing, the sigidrigi kind you know.

"There were a lot of villagers, including children who were buried."

Mr Muatini said a part of an iron bed could be seen protruding from the buried site until recently and has been covered with soil.

"If you are alone at the buried site, you will get that eerie feeling and the hair will just stand on your hands and send a chill down your spine.

"Every now and then we hear cries from the area at night.

"The voices and cries were only being heard at the site before but they are coming closer to our village now.

"We can even hear people talking at night near the entrance to Abaca Village now and when we check, there is no one there," said Mr Muatini.

After visiting the buried Nagaga Village and taking some pictures, The Fiji Times team returned to Abaca Village to talk with villagers.

Villagers present at the grog session confirmed they have been hearing cries for help from the buried Nagaga Village site late at night.

They also confirmed hearing people talking near Abaca Village at night, saying the dead were coming closer to the village.

"Voices and cries can be heard at the buried Nagaga Village site since the tragic incident happened and we know that it will continue," said the villagers.

"Maybe they are trying to tell us something but we don't really know what or it could be because of how they died," they said.

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