The calamity hit the nation on the night of February 20 and uprooted houses and trees, flooded farms, and brought the nation to a complete stand-still. According to reports from Fiji earlier this week, 43 people had died in the monstrous cyclone. The aftermath has been more disconcerting with the damages amounting to Fijian $1bn and the nation trying to get to back to normalcy.
Aid has poured from across the world to help Fiji back on its feet, yet most of the areas have received little to no help so far. Indian Weekender spoke to some the victims from various remote regions of Fiji and received upsetting and shocking revelations.
Gurnam Singh, a 65-year-old from Nanromai, Tuvu, lived in a joint family with 26 members. The members of the house are as old as him and as young as six years old. The family also has a five-month-old infant. Gurnam works as a carpenter and does occasional labour jobs in the nearby town of Sigatoka, which is five km from his village. Gurnam recounts that since he lives in a remote village and had no radio communication, he did not get intimation about the bad weather. Little did he know that in a few hours he will not even have a house to take shelter in. Around 10 pm in the night when he realised it was not safe to stay in the house, the 26 member family started to shift to a relative’s house, which was down the hill. He and his family had barely moved when the cyclone hit the village at around 230 kmph bringing down the trees and his tin-covered wooden house to the ground. The family, however, took shelter in the cane field, which by then was flooded with rain water up to one and a half feet off the ground.
The family survived the brunt of the night with no one hurt yet they lost their leased house. Gurnam and his family came out from the cane field at 3 a.m. only to see the village devastated and most of the houses partially or fully ruined. Aid has been received by the government, but barely anything has been distributed evenly. Gurnam exclaims that the government officials take a tour of the place once in two or three days but only carry out surveys. “We have no food. There is no power, no money, no work, and no house to live in, and we are sleeping in the kitchen area. Even basic arrangements such as tents, bamboo and food items haven’t been distributed here. We are asking people here to help us with food, as most of us are starving and struggling to have even the basic needs fulfilled,” stated Mani Ratnam Reddy, one of the members of Gurnam Singh’s family.
Similar stories were heard from Chandar Naidu from Vatukoula, near the town of Tavua. Chandar, 49, works as a carpenter in a goldmine and lives with his mother, wife and two kids. Chandar escaped into a small passage between his house and the corridor and stayed there for five hours until the storm passed. He also claims that he felt mild tremors, which went unnoticed by many under the shadow of the cyclone. The tremor shook the wall and the tin roof dropped to the floor, however, no one was hurt.
Most of the houses in his village have suffered up to 80% damages and mattresses and house items were found floating in the water.
“We have nothing left here. We are helping our neighbours reconstruct their houses. The government officials are coming for inspections but the real help is nowhere to be seen,” added Chandar.
Forty-year-old Rakesh Kumar has four members in his family and lives in Varadoli, Ba. A sandalwood exporter by profession, he says that his house was wrecked, too, like many others in his village. He hid with his family in a passage between the corridor of his house and the bathroom. Some of his friends in the village, he said, had been injured after being hit by flying tin roofs, furniture and crumbling walls.
“We are doing voluntary work, helping villagers repair their houses and looking after the sick and hurt,” said Rakesh. He too complained of aid not being distributed evenly.
Looking at the current situation in Fiji, it can be said that although the country is suffering from the aftermath of the calamity, the government’s negligence is causing more damage to the people. Unbalanced allocation of resources is increasing the troubles of the victims. Most of the remote areas have not been receiving food, water, and shelter, thus delaying the recovery and reconstruction of the country.