Thursday, February 07, 2013

Experiences of a tsunami

from w
Peceli was told by some older people in Naseakula that they were standing on the hilltop behind the village and saw the water coming which to them was as high as Mali Island.  This was in 1928, and the wave went as far as Korotari village.  Just this week a Fijian doctor working in the Solomon Islands on a small outlier island experienced a tsunami.  And another one was in the 1950s in Suva.. When I heard about the earthquake and tsunami in the Solomons I looked up a map because this week I have just read a book called 'Faraway' about life on Pidgeon Island which is in the Reef Islands near where the catastrophic event took place. Villages are beside the sea and wouldn't have stood a chance.
Two stories from the Fiji Times:

Shaken to the core

Tevita Vuibau
Friday, February 08, 2013
"I AM very shaken. It's been a very traumatic experience for me and I'm not sure whether I'm coming or I'm going."
Those were the words of distraught Fijian national Dr Ledua Waqaliti, a resident of Santa Cruz in the Solomon Islands that was rocked by the tsunami triggered by a magnitude 8.0 earthquake.
The tsunami caused mass destruction on the island with two massive waves washing away houses and flooding Lata airport, which was littered with debris.
Dr Waqaliti, a lecturer at the University of the South Pacific centre on the island, said the tsunami struck after midday, shattering an otherwise normal afternoon.
"E vakadomobula saraga na ka e yaco i ke e na noa (What happened here yesterday was absolutely terrifying)," Dr Waqaliti said.
"As soon as the earthquake happened, the students in my class came and led me out of the classroom to get to higher ground.
"All I could hear was people screaming 'tsunami!'. There were mothers and children calling out to each other and there was panic everywhere as people tried to get to higher ground."
The tsunami struck the western part of Santa Cruz but Dr Waqaliti, who lives on the other side of the island, said they felt the force of the wave when it struck land.
"The island is small so when we were running to get up the hills we could hear the wave," she said.
"While we were trying to make our way into the hills, we heard people screaming that the tsunami was 20 metres from reaching the airport."
With the island still feeling aftershocks and tremors yesterday, Dr Waqaliti said many residents had opted to stay in the hills rather than risk going back into the villages.
"The tremors here come every so often, sometimes they last for only a few seconds but then there are those that go on for a minute. The authorities are saying that we should expect a second earthquake some time today (yesterday) so right now people are still camping in the hills and making beds where they can."
She also had a message for her friends and family back home.
"I just want to let my family know that I am safe but just for them to keep praying for all those here in Santa Cruz. To all my family in Nadera and to my cell group at the Wesley Butt Street Church, please remember us in your prayers.
"The families here do not have much money and it's a hard life for some of them so all we ask is that the people of Fiji keep us in their prayers."
While the Ono-i-Lau native was happy that her students managed to escape unscathed, some staff at the USP centre in Lata lost family members in the disaster.
"The saddest part of the day for me was learning the co-ordinator of the course I am teaching, John Keniop, lost both his parents."
They were among the six confirmed dead on Wednesday when the waves roared over land. They came too fast and outran five elderly villagers and a child.
Another three bodies were found yesterday.
Dr Waqaliti said Mr Keniop's father was confined to a wheelchair.
"When the earthquake hit, Mr Keniop's mother began to make the move to higher ground but she realised her husband was still back in their house and came back for him.
"Unfortunately the tsunami came before they were able to move."
Their bodies were found in the sodden wreckage after the water receded.
Dr Waqaliti's husband in Suva, Ben Waqaliti, said he had made contact with her and was relieved she was safe.
"I know right now that she is in safe hands, she rang me when it happened and she seemed to be more concerned with the students and making sure they were fine," he said.

Remembering 1953 in Suva.

Tsunami threat's real, says 1953 survivor

Tevita Vuibau
Friday, February 08, 2013
WEDNESDAY'S tsunami warning and mass evacuation brought back vivid memories for those that were in the capital when it was hit by a tsunami in 1953.
On September 14 that year, shortly after midday, a tsunami generated by a 6.75 magnitude earthquake off the southeast shore of Viti Levu hit Suva.
Former Public Service Commission chairman Sakiasi Waqanivavalagi, who was a Form Six student at Marist Brothers High School then, does not rule out it happening again.
Mr Waqanivavalagi said there was always a chance a tsunami could devastate Suva the same way it did in 1953.
"I wouldn't rule it out. When I was Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, I would receive updates on climate and tremors. This was one thing I was very worried about," he said.
"I would ask those at the ministry to keep a close watch on earthquakes and tsunamis because they were very devastating and they are still a worry."
Mr Waqanivavalagi said there was a need for villagers on coastlines to be moved to higher ground in the event of a tsunami.
He said the earthquake and tsunami happened one year after a cyclone caused a lot of damage in Suva.
Recalling the 1953 event, Mr Waqanivavalagi said it was an experience he would not forget.
"When the earthquake first struck, we thought that the army was firing artillery at Nasonini because of the sound. It was only when the earth started moving that we realised it was an earthquake," he said.
"Then before the tsunami came, the water rushed out of the bay in Suva and we could see the bottom, then all of a sudden it came rushing back in."
The wall of water that roared from the ocean, he said, burst past the Grand Pacific Hotel and deposited fish and debris at Albert Park.
"It was terrible. The most terrible thing I have ever seen. It even split the Suva wharf like a twig," he said.
When the alarm sounded on Wednesday, the first thing he thought of were his grandchildren.
"The best thing for schools to do right now is to teach students what to do and what will happen in an earthquake and tsunami."

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