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Woken by a 'rain of pebbles'

Sikeli Qounadovu
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

AT 4am last Wednesday February 7, the heavy rain followed by strong wind were forceful enough to bring those at Nasau Village on Koro Island from being asleep to fully awake in just moments.

The rain was pelting down so heavily it was like tiny pebbles pouring from the heavens.

About two years ago, this same village was one of the worst devastated when Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston made landfall on February 20, 2016.

Of the 44 Fijians who lost their lives, 11 were from this same village; five at the height of the cyclone and six in hospital because of the severity of their injuries

Now wide awake, I pictured the waves that rampaged through the village as a result of the storm surges, strong wind that battered houses and villagers running up Dokidoki Hill for refuge.

My first trip to Koro was two years ago, three days after the monster cyclone made landfall. The sight of roofing iron hanging from shredded trees and hillsides as if they were garlands, were still clear before me.

Those were days when the young and the old kept warm in classrooms at Koro High School and then returned to the village to try and salvage what was left of their belongings.

As these thoughts returned to me, photographer Jona Konataci and driver Joseva Vilikeni were also awake. The entire family, our hosts, were fully alert and no one slept a wink until later that evening.

Later in the day we returned from a trip around Koro and learnt there was warning from the Fiji Meteorological Service about a tropical disturbance closing in on Fiji.

The same afternoon government officials made a trip around the island informing Koro islanders to take extra precautions because of the adverse weather pattern.

We arrived at our accommodation around 9pm, the same time a truck load of villagers was dropped off at the church, now an evacuation centre.

The young and the old with their beddings, many whose memories of the Category 5 cyclone still fresh in their minds, were here to seek refuge.

Despite what they had gone through having survived the second strongest natural disaster to hit the southern hemsiphere they still carry smiles on their faces, their resilience beyond compare. They are the best description of Fiji the way the world should be.

As they bedded down for the night and as is the custom in many homes throughout the country, we joined our prayers to theirs for comfort and solace for the people of Koro, guidance and protection and that they through God's grace will find peace and prosperity.

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