Village of heroines

WOMEN of Naveiveiwali Village in Tailevu stood out as heroines at the height of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.

Their strength and determination resulted in 22 villagers surviving the night that left all 21 houses destroyed, including their church and newly-constructed village hall.

Among them were five mothers — one who had to carry her bedridden 90-year-old father — the others were four mothers with their newborn babies.

These women helped the only two men in the village and carried an 86-year-old woman from their homes to the village hall.

Vika Sabasaba did not let the strong winds or the torrential rain scare her as she carried her father to the hall.

“It was at the hall that we decided to move to the church because, by then, we could see the sky as the roofing iron had been ripped off,” she said.

“But by the time the villagers started moving to the church, the whole roof was ripped off.

“That was when we thought the best place to shelter was underneath the floor of the hall.”

With a height of about two feet — from the ground to the bottom plate for the house — Ms Sabasaba said this was their best chance to survive the ordeal.

“I carried my father on my back and with the assistance of my sister and another woman, pushed my father further in,” she said. “We had just rested under the floor when the walls and roof either flew or crashed.

“Because there was limited space, my back was exposed to the strong winds and heavy rain.”

Sera Nadovulau said all the mothers covered their babies in a carpet to ensure they were not wet and at a place which was free from the muddy ground.

“All of us lay on the ground which was soaking wet and muddy. But for me at that time, I did not care about it, I just wanted to ensure that my six-month-old baby was going to live even if I did not,” she said.

The villagers lay under the floor from 4.30pm until 12 midnight when the winds died out before they moved to the Naqia Seventh-day Adventist School, where they are being sheltered today.

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