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Fijians flee to safety

Aqela Susu
Friday, December 08, 2017

A FIJIAN family in fire-stricken Ventura County in California, United States, is thanking God after their house was spared by a massive wildfire that has wreaked havoc in their neighbourhood since Monday.

Koto Silikula, originally of Nadi, and his wife Sarah were among the many families who were evacuated after the wildfire spread so fast yesterday.

In an interview with this newspaper yesterday, Mrs Silikula confirmed this was the first time they had experienced such a disaster since they moved to Ventura County in 2005.

The mother-of-five described the wildfire like a "hurricane wind that was on fire" in the form of a circle surrounding their three-bedroom house.

"The fire showed no mercy," Mrs Silikula said.

"We had to evacuate four of our teenage children. We are in the middle of all the fires.

"The homes all around were burned randomly. Quarter mile around the block, about 200 homes, all burned down.

"It would seem small, but then the wind would shift and a house five blocks away would ignite. The entire city turned into a war zone of firefighters."

She said their family did not sleep for the past two days prior to their evacuation because everyone stayed up to fight the fire and put out anything that could land on their house.

The Silikulas have now moved to their other home in Thousand Oaks, which is the second-largest city in Ventura County.

Another Fijian national, Osea Saunivalu, who lives in Sherman Oaks in Los Angeles, California, yesterday confirmed to this newspaper the wildfire was moving closer to where they lived.

"Air quality is really bad," Mr Saunivalu said.

"My kids' school is closed for two days but we're safe now. Right now as we speak (yesterday), my family is closed in our apartment."

More than 1700 firefighters have been working to contain the fire that had burned 65,000 acres by Wednesday morning.

Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ioane Naivalurua last night said he would not be able to comment on the matter because he had not received any report from the Fiji Embassy in the US.

"I have not received anything formal. Maybe they are working on it," he said.

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