Three hours of terror and waves: Lau residents

DAMAGE to some islands in Lau is quite extensive with reports of homes and plantations completely destroyed as the National Disaster Management Office continues damage assessment of the group.

Until this morning, communication was down with the Lau islands and Kadavu as category 4 Tropical Cyclone Harold swept through Fiji.

On Matuku Island in the south of Lau, villagers told of three terrifying hours of damaging force winds and waves which seemed like tsunamis.

In Makadru village, Delaiverata Primary School head teacher Eroni Waqa said although more than 20 homes were either destroyed or badly damaged, there was no injury because the island community was prepared.

“We had received word from the eastern education office earlier in the week so we knew where to get information from. We printed handouts which described the kind of damage to expect and made sure there was a threat map on there so people could understand.”

“We gave a handout to each household and made sure it was presented in a way that would help them get ready. I think one could say we were prepared and knew what to expect.”

Eroni Waqa, Head Teacher Delaiverata Primary School

Despite that, it was still terrifying for the almost 30 homes in Makadru as the strong winds and storm surge made visibility difficult as TC Harold passed over.

“We could not even see within a meter of each other so when the waves came, we couldn’t see it. When it was over, I went down to the village to assess the damage and the sight of the fishing boats in the middle of the village green told us where the waves came up to.”

Mr Waqa estimates the waves came 50metres into Makadru bringing debris from the ocean as well as the walls and contents of the homes it decimated along the way.

“A lot of people don’t have homes as even strong structures like our village hall and church were smashed in with its contents thrown everywhere.”

“This morning, people from the other villages on the island have joined us to salvage what we can for those who have lost their homes. It’s a sad sight to see.”

On other islands in the district of Moala, photos from residents showed the jetty was partly washed out, and its coastal roads partly damaged and now accessible only by 4WD vehicles.

As per the 2017 census, the Lau Group has a population of 9,602 and there are at least 10,897 people in Kadavu. Matuku Island has seven villages and a population of 522.

National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) Director Vasiti Soko has reached out to the public asking people of Lau and Kadavu living on the mainland to assist in their assessment of damage.

Those who have information can contact the Commissioner Eastern on 7775485/3313400 or the NDMO on 915, 2205202

Meanwhile a total of 197 Evacuation Centres currently shelter 4,577 people around the country.

“Please continue to exercise caution while traveling on the road. We are working closely with our First Responders to assist our people who are still sheltering in Evacuation Centers,” said Soko.

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