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Tragic slip

Shalveen Chand
Sunday, March 02, 2014

IT was a trip to the river to catch fish for dinner but little did Timaima Marama know it would be the last time she would see her husband and granddaughter.

The family from Visama had walked towards the river with Jovesa Rabativesi, 54, carrying five-and-half-year-old Alena Grace in his arms.

Rabativesi and Alena Grace are presumed drowned after they fell into a river while on a bridge made from a tree trunk.

According to the police, the two are believed to be the first drowning victims of the flood.

"He was walking in front. Jovesa was carrying Alena and they had almost reached the other side when Jovesa slipped," said a teary eyed Mrs Marama.

"They went down and never came up. I shouted and then I ran to call some boys who were playing close by.

"The water level was higher than usual and the current was strong."

At first glance it's hard to believe that a river flows next to the village. It's camouflaged with grass with depths up to eight feet in places.

Moana Village headman Navitalai Bulisea said men from the surrounding four villages started a search on Friday afternoon soon after the mishap was reported.

Yesterday morning, the search continued.

"In times like these, men and women unite to help the family that is affected. However, there is also a lesson to be learnt," Mr Bulisea said.

"When warnings about floods and especially about crossing flooded rivers are given, they must be taken seriously."

The villagers cleared the grass from the river to allow the police divers to search.

The divers admitted that the undercurrent was much stronger than the surface current and it was possible the bodies were swept downriver.

In the afternoon, a digger was brought to clear the grass.

At around 4pm, Mr Rabativesi's body was found by the police team some 80 metres from where he slipped and fell into the water.

Police spokesman Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri said the search was called off as it became dark but they hope to locate Alena's body today.

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