Cyclone Winston: Call going out for skilled workers

By Richard Moore

Cyclone Winston destroyed the Yasawas High School in Muaira on Naviti Island. Photo / Richard Moore
Cyclone Winston destroyed the Yasawas High School in Muaira on Naviti Island. Photo / Richard Moore

Volunteers in Fiji's Yasawa Group are appealing for Kiwi and Australian tradesmen to help them rebuild their islands.

Cyclone Winston tore through the Yasawas last Saturday, with winds of 300km/h leaving a scar of devastation.

Many of the villages in the archipelago of about 20 volcanic islands have been badly damaged.

Scores of buildings have been destroyed, schools flattened or badly damaged, and crops wiped out.

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Photo / Richard Moore
Photo / Richard Moore

The clean-up is under way, but skilled workers are required for the rebuilding programme.

Even a week after the disaster, the lack of communication with the outside world is making life difficult; the only links are ferries and cruise boats belonging to South Sea Cruises and Blue Lagoon Cruises.

Messages are passed to the ships' crews from the islands and resorts to be sent back to Nadi and important details are returned to the people on the islands.

The operations manager of the Vinaka Fiji, Elenoa Nimacere, said there were no builders in the villages.

"We need help. We are seeking people to come and restore lives.

"Builders, plumbers and electricians are all needed."

Vinaka Fiji is looking to get schools up and running first and, by doing that, clear the way for adults to rebuild the villages.

Not only is the call going out for skilled workers, but also for tools and equipment.

Ms Nimacere said it was an extensive list. "We need saws, hammers, nails, anything for building houses. One of the key things are wheel barrows -- they are really important."

Photo / Richard Moore
Photo / Richard Moore

Wheelbarrows could assist villagers in rebuilding their gardens and replanting crops, Ms Nimacere said. Spades and forks were also in very short supply.

Assessment teams led by Vinaka Fiji staff are visiting villages to find out what has happened to them and what they need.

Food is the main priority, as most local crops have been flattened.

Ms Nimacere said an estimated 2000 villagers on Naviti Island had very limited food.

"Their crops have been wiped out. They are now preserving food in the traditional way. That is grating of kasava so they can cook it in leaves. That helps it last a long time. They are also drying out fish."

In the village of Muaira -- an hour boat trip north of the resort of Barefoot Manta -- are keenly waiting for emergency food supplies to arrive.

Fortunately, water is not an issue on Naviti as Vinaka Fiji set up a rainwater harvesting programme last year. The project fixed gutters to roofs that feed into huge water tanks to give villagers access to clean drinking water.

While the Yasawas High School in Muaira was flattened, it still has tanks containing 150,000 litres of water that can be used.

"We worked out how many tanks we needed to meet the minimum -- five litres of water per person per day for six months," Ms Nimacere said. "The tanks are full."

Ms Nimacere looks exhausted but won't allow herself to slow down.

"Seeing damage in villages ? it is sad to see. But I'm happy no one died.

"When you step on the beach, many people are crying, but are happy when familiar faces come to the beach.

"They are very happy to see me."

***New Zealand photojournalist Richard Moore is travelling in the cyclone-damaged Yasawa Islandsunder the auspices of the Vinaka Fiji Charitable Trust.

***If you can help with building material, or want to use your skills to rebuild people's lives, contact Vinaka Fiji at www.vinakafiji.org.fj.

[NZME-NZG-NZC]

-NZH

- NZ Herald

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