The Long­est Night of Na­matas Life

Night of Na­mata’s Life

mailife - - Contents - By MELA TUILEVUKA Pho­tos by ANDY PAUL

Nakau­vadra High School prin­ci­pal Jo­se­vata Na­mata went into Raki­raki town on 20 Fe­bru­ary 2016 to get emer­gency sup­plies in prepa­ra­tion for Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Win­ston. While in town, he gath­ered that the cy­clone warn­ing was be­ing taken lightly be­cause quite a num­ber of peo­ple were still roam­ing the streets. “Peo­ple thought Cat­e­gory Five was a weak cy­clone when it was the to­tal op­po­site,” he told MaiL­ife dur­ing an in­ter­view one year on. Na­mata, from Soa Vil­lage in Noko­ro­tubu, Ra said it was about 2pm when flood wa­ters started to rise. Po­lice of­fi­cers were in town ad­vis­ing peo­ple to re­turn to their homes. “I made my way to our school quar­ters and my first pri­or­ity was to try and se­cure the school,” he said. “While I was do­ing that, the kitchen roofs of some of our teacher’s quar­ters started blow­ing away. It made me re­alise that this cy­clone was no joke, it was all hap­pen­ing be­fore our very eyes in broad day­light,” he added. He said peo­ple started to trickle in slowly to take shel­ter in the school, not know­ing the prin­ci­pal was strug­gling to se­cure the class­rooms and quar­ters. “But I didn’t turn them away, I did my best to ac­com­mo­date them. I had moved my fam­ily from our quar­ters to one of the dou­ble storey class­rooms be­cause our roof had also blown away by this time, so I told ev­ery­one to head there as well.” “We stacked the desks on top of each other and the women and chil­dren sat there so they were not get­ting wet. “There were about 30 of us hud­dled in the class­room that day,” he said. Na­mata said one look at the faces of women and chil­dren who were there caused him to change his mind com­pletely about his ap­proach to the cy­clone. He re­alised their lives were more im­por­tant than the class­rooms he was try­ing to se­cure. Over the noise of what seemed to be the strongests gusts of wind and heav­i­est rain that lasted for about 45 min­utes he could hear the ter­ri­fied cries of the women and chil­dren… ”They were scared to death.” He es­ti­mated there was about a 30 minute break be­fore the night­mare started again – this time much worse than be­fore. “We tried to lock the door but it wouldn’t close. Three of

us had to push it shut but this didn’t last long. The door soon blew open again and us with it – it showed us just how strong the wind was.” When the wind died down and Na­mata could make sure his fam­ily was safe with oth­ers who had taken shel­ter with them, Na­mata tagged along with of­fi­cials from Wa­ter Au­thor­ity of Fiji in their ve­hi­cle to see if any­one needed help or was still stranded some­where. “Peo­ple had come out onto the road­side, they were just stand­ing there lost with nowhere to go, but our pri­or­ity were the peo­ple who still re­ally needed ur­gent help,” he said. “The first case we at­tended to was at Rar­a­vatu. We had driven past a col­lapsed house when we saw two dogs bark­ing hys­ter­i­cally and try­ing to dig some­thing out.” Na­mata said their in­stincts were cor­rect be­cause af­ter hours of dig­ging they dis­cov­ered a mo­tion­less body of a 60 year old wo­man. She was dead, her home had col­lapsed on top of her. “While we were get­ting her body out, her two sons ar­rived and told us how they had asked their mother to es­cape and go with them to some­where else. But she re­fused to leave, not re­al­is­ing her home would be her burial ground.” See­ing the sons cry­ing for their dead mother and re­mem­ber­ing their last few mo­ments with her broke his heart, Na­mata said. “It was one of the long­est nights of my life and it will be etched in my mind for­ever.” As for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion at the school, he said it was un­for­tu­nate that they had no luck get­ting as­sis­tance in re­build­ing the class­rooms that were de­stroyed a year ago. “We are still us­ing tents and when it gets re­ally hot, learn­ing is un­bear­able for the stu­dents so I have moved them into our par­tially dam­aged class­rooms,” he said. “We have had vis­its from AUSAID, the In­dian Gov­ern­ment and Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials, but as of to­day, we are still where we were one year ago.” Yet one year on, he re­mains hope­ful that those who promised help will keep their prom­ises

Nakau­vadra High School Prin­ci­pal Mr Jo­se­vata Na­mata re­lives his or­deal.

One year af­ter - the re­mains of one of the class­rooms at Nakau­vadra High School The re­mains of Nakau­vadra High School one year af­ter.

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