Fiji’s Koro Islanders Abandoning Cyclone Devastated Home

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Fiji’s Koro Islanders Abandoning Cyclone Devastated Home Many people moving to capital for safety reasons

By Losalini Bolatagici And Sikeli Qounadovu

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, March 1, 2016) – Another boat full of people from Koro Island arrived in Suva yesterday as villagers abandon their devastated island because "it is no longer safe for them to live in".

Nabuna villager Mitieli Tuqiri said nothing was left for them on the island.

[PIR editor’s note: On March 1, 2016 RNZI reported that ‘The death toll from Cyclone Winston has risen by one to 43.’]

"Everyone from my village is choosing to move to Suva. Some came last week while others arrived on board the Patterson boat today (yesterday)," Mr Tuqiri said.

"We have been advised by our relatives to leave the islands and that's exactly what we are doing because staying behind means a lot of struggle for us to get our lives back to normal."

He said people from other villages as well had moved to the main urban centres.

Calls have been made to have the island quarantined for at least two months as there was a risk of an outbreak of communicable diseases.

Agriculture officer Isei Namacamanalatu, while briefing Australian High Commissioner Margaret Twomey on the island last week, said dead carcasses polluted rivers, water was not clean and the leftover crops on farms were not safe for consumption.

He said the quarantine would disallow anyone going to the island, except for officials assisting with the rehabilitation.

National Disaster Management Office director Akapusi Tuifagalele said Government was doing its best on the current situation to see what was needed on the island.

He said having the island quarantined was one of the ways to reduce disease outbreak, adding it was also another way of helping them psychologically.

However, the Prime Minister has advised parents in Koro not to send their children to Suva.

He was responding to concerns raised by villagers on Koro Island that some parents were seriously considering sending their children for further education in Suva.

Meanwhile, when Cyclone Meli struck Nayau Island on March 25, 1979, people from the three villages were shipped to the nearby island of Lakeba because the island was quarantined.

Lavenia Bose, 63, a survivor from that cyclone, said they lived in Lakeba for about two years before people moved back to Nayau.

"A government vessel came and made several trips to Lakeba. Children attended schools there for at least two years. We had the men return to the island to help rebuild houses and plant crops. Most people returned in mid-1981."

* This newspaper acknowledges the assistance of TFL on Koro Island that made it possible for our reporters to communicate with our Suva office.

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