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Preparing for the big one

Fred Wesley
Monday, November 07, 2016

NOW that we are in the cyclone season, interest will be on how well we prepare this time around. The reference point being the frightening power unleashed by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston on February 20.

However one cares to look at it, it is a frightening reality that cyclones appear to be getting stronger.

Winston drove through that message loud and clear.

Indications are that we could have at least three cyclones making their way into our waters.

The frightening episode in February left people homeless, and in some places, villages looked like battle zones.

Concrete structures were flattened and homes uprooted.

Eight months on, many of these villages are still struggling to get back to normality.

Villagers in these villages are still struggling to get their lives back in order.

The process hasn't been made any easier with the delay in many cases of building materials being sent across to affected zones.

It actually leaves behind a rather sad tale of the harsh reality on the ground.

Some families continue to live in tents or makeshift homes.

Now with the onset of the cyclone season we learn that villages of Navakawau, Vuna and Lavena on the island of Taveuni are still without contingency plans for the new season.

Sharing his experience during a community participatory workshop in Labasa last week, Vuna Village headman Petero Sobusika said 12 families in his village were still living in tents.

Mr Sobusika said the 12 families had shacks they sheltered in during wet weather. These shelters, he said, would not be able to withstand strong winds.

In Vuna, he claimed, the village of Banikea which has a population of more than 300 people and the village of Nakorovou which has more than 400 people, do not have a contingency plan should there be another cyclone.

Also speaking during the workshop, Navakawau assistant village head Jone Nikolau said they had 20 houses in the village that survived Winston.

He said the population in the village was more than 600 people, which meant the shelters were not enough.

Mr Nikolau claimed people started to ask him what measures would be taken in the event of another cyclone.

"I do not know what to say since I am still struggling with my family to find a proper home," he said.

Lavena Village head Petero Waisea said they had a disaster committee in the village that worked on five homes.

While plans were set to build 20 houses before the cyclone season set in, they now have identified the five houses and their school as suitable for villagers.

They were still working on a contingency plan, he said.

The scenarios aren't pleasant at all.

However, they should instil in us a great sense of urgency to take appropriate action to ensure we are prepared for a natural disaster.

If you haven't already done so, now is probably the time to organise yourself.

It pays to be prepared.

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