Project Fiji: The aftermath of cyclone Winston

Project Fiji: The aftermath of cyclone Winston

It is with great sadness that I write this blog. As they say, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

I knew that my project in the Yasawas would be difficult to get off the ground – I was not expecting a natural disaster to throw such a huge spanner in the works. However, Cyclone Winston tore through Fiji without mercy. To say that I am saddened for the losses suffered by my friends in the village would be an understatement. Understandably, plans to return to photograph the village have been put on hold.

February 21st was a very nerve-wracking day – knowing that they were pretty much in the eye of the storm (as the map above shows). I tried making contact with my acquaintances on the island on the 22nd, but lines were down.

I got lucky on February 25th when Kasi Raibe, the school’s headmaster, made contact with me via Facebook messenger while he was on his way back to the mainland to report the damage sustained by the village.

In short – the village lost 40 homes, including those of the teachers, and 3 classrooms.

Despite the damage, the good news is that there was no loss of life. For that at least, I am grateful.

Aerial images really show the extent of the damage. Take a look at this link to get a sense of the devastation. Soso village is the last aerial image on the list. Look at the houses and the palm trees that have all lost their leaves.

From Kasi’s reports, it sounds as if it may take anything up to 3 months before any rebuilding begins.

The beach leading to village

The damage suffered by the school

Having made contact with Kasi I then phoned Savaira, my contact working at Mantar Ray Island Resort.

She was in the village during the cyclone, and the story she tells of being huddled in the chief’s house with 2 very frightened children was quite harrowing – I cannot begin to imagine the fear I’d experience in the midst of 300 km/h wind gusts and houses falling apart around me.

For now, things are on hold while I wait for word from the island.

I am immensely grateful that everyone is safe, but I am saddened by the amount of damage the village and school has sustained. I feel that there is a way forward, but that perhaps the best approach is to try and help with the rebuild in some way.

I’ll keep you updated…