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Gone but not forgotten

Sikeli Qounadovu
Sunday, February 25, 2018

THE winds were so strong that I ran out of the house, I could see rooftops being blown off, trees and houses uprooted and shredded in mid-air.

Everyone was running for their life up the hill — the young and the old, all trying to survive. I was the only one left behind and was finding it hard to move because my feet was somehow stuck. Then all off a sudden the sea became dry.

Everyone had reached the top of the hill and were calling out my name, but no one was willing to come down because the winds were already too strong and they feared being injured by the flying debris and falling trees.

I looked around and out at sea a huge wave came rushing towards me, the tidal wave destroyed everything in its path — concrete houses crumbled like tiny pebbles.

Just when the wave reached me, I woke up, it was all a dream but it seemed real and I was sweating.

I came outside the house by the beach and the sea was calm under the bright evening sky. I looked around and saw Mr and Mrs Cokanasiga still fast asleep. It was just a bad dream.

But on February 20, 2016, it was not a dream. Koro Island lay in the path of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.

Nasau Village was one of the worst affected with 105 damaged houses and apart from the destroyed farms, 11 lives were lost — five at the height of the cyclone and six in hospital because of the severity of their injuries.

Villagers shared their experiences about how tidal waves separated them from their loved ones, destroying anything and everything in its path.

The screams of horror and scenes of destruction still fresh in the minds of all Koro islanders even two years after the monster cyclone made landfall.

The older women and children on the island often share their experience with tears streaming down their faces and stuttering voices.

Two years on and the scars of the worst ever natural disaster in recorded history to make landfall in the southern hemisphere, still lives on amid their smiling faces.

On Monday February 12, 2018, I made a courtesy call to the home of renowned songwriter and composer Isimeli Cokanasiga.

His home was once a beautiful well-constructed concrete dwelling that once stood along the shores of Nasau.

Today, he and his wife live in a makeshift shelter about eight feet in width, 14 feet in length and five feet in height from the ground to the roof by the sea.

I spent the night at the Cokanasiga's residence. Only three days earlier, the house was vacated after strong winds and heavy rain brought forth by Tropical Depression 08F forced the villagers to be evacuated to Nasau Methodist Church.

After a good cup of tea, we watched the replay of the Hamilton 7s on Youtube before it was lights off.

The time was about 10:30pm when we slept.

I was awoken a little after 1am from my bad dream and did not sleep until the sun was up.

I looked up and saw Mr and Mrs Cokanasiga sleeping peacefully.

Two weeks on Koro Island and villagers who still live in tents and makeshift shelters still have the same nightmares.

Children cry when they hear the raindrops and a slight breeze enough to instil fear and bring back memories of that fateful day.

Until today, more than 1600 people on the island still live in tents and make-shift shelters waiting for the housing supplies to arrive and for the completion of their dream homes.

I can only pray for a speedy recovery for peace and may they find comfort as they slowly rebuild their lives.

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