Witnessing her home of almost 60 years in ruins after Tropical Cyclone Keni hit Kadavu earlier this year was a traumatising experience for 76-year-old Naomi Tokaiqali of Namuana village.
Mrs Tokaiqali still considers herself blessed after surviving a cyclone which she remembers to be a ‘life-threatening’ experience.
She said she was at home when her grandson warned her of the cyclone approaching the island.
“An elderly woman like myself, I was not sure what to expect. All I could feel was frustration and fear because there was so much commotion in the village, people moving around trying to seek shelter,” she said.
It was 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon and Mrs Tokaiqali said the atmosphere was similar to that of a war zone, where the elderly, youth and children had to rush to higher ground as strong winds and waves started crashing into the village.
“The waves came in, children started crying and there was panic and chaos across the village,” she said.
“My grandson was trying to reassure me to stay strong, because I wasn’t sure if I would survive the night, as I saw how the strong winds and waves had started ruining homes.
“My grandson told me to hold on to him tightly as he carried me half way across the village to where the evacuation centre was located.”
She said the waves that entered the village had reached knee-level and with tears rolling down her cheeks, she silently prayed that they would survive the day.
“We reached the evacuation centre safely where families had gathered, hurdled together as the strong winds knocked on our doors and walls,” she said.
A few hours later, Mrs Tokaiqali said the strong winds seized and the water level receded.
“After the winds had passed I came back home to find it in ruins and it was a very heart-breaking moment for me.
“Our house was built in 1959 and this was where my children and grandchildren were raised and seeing that all gone was a very sad sight.”
She said the Fiji Red Cross Society team visited villagers in the evacuation centre, distributing tarpaulins, blankets, clothes and food items.
With the assistance brought to the evacuation centre, Mrs Tokaiqali said the villagers were grateful as the food rations helped sustain them for the next few days.
Luckily for Mrs Tokaiqali, financial support from her children and family members saw the completion of her newly built house, not far from where her old home was situated.
According to the Turaga ni Koro of Namuana Jolame Bokata, eight houses in the village were completely destroyed while 27 homes were partially damaged.
“I was one of those whose homes were ruined by TC Keni and I was also helped by the Fiji Red Cross Society,” said Mr Bokata.
“On behalf of the families and the people of Namuana, I am truly grateful and thankful for the timely assistance provided by FRCS.
“Especially for providing us with tarpaulins, shelter, water tanks and water sanitation. My house which is situated near the shore was completely ruined by the cyclone but such assistance was of great help to me and my family.”