Sunday, January 29, 2012

Water, Water Everywhere -- but none to be found

After 3 days of no power we gratefully had the electricity restored -- what a relief.  Hard to imagine how much we depend on electrical energy, but especially to enable communication.  Continuing without water has become a major problem for everyone in the community.  We thought we'd take you through some of the scenes here in the last few days and the circumstance we find ourselves in now.
LDS Church parking lot.  No plans yet for where Church services will be held in the long run
or whether repairs here will be done.  Perhaps a new site will be preferable after 3 such floods.

Rescuing the computer!
Bishop Ratu finding some water to wash the mud off our feet
Here's the devastating problem for our Church location:  Just behind us to the south is Namosau Creek.  In the two shots below, you see the aftermath of the flood plain.  The second picture tells the story best as the flood level was over the top of the bridge railing.

Nomosau creek is small by comparison to the Ba river which lies just to the north of the Church about a quarter mile.  With many inches of rain falling daily for three days, a new moon creating very high tides, the conditions were just too much as all the creeks and the river rose together many feet above flood level.  The Church was caught in between.
Ba River during the flood
Now to some shots downtown.  The first three are of one exit route out of town with the last being the same location after the water receded.

One entrance to the open market, bus station, and main shopping area and serves as one exit out of town
Elevuka creek running through the middle of town - after the flood level receded
(note the green tarp, then see the same area during the flood in the picture below)
Here's the green tarp area under several feet of water.  That "New World" sign is about 10 feet above
ground level.
Looking into the main shopping plaza.  Some employees were still in these stores trying
to put things up when the flood closed in -- they were stuck there for 3 days (but had access to
all the store's goods, including electricity from the generators)
Another view of Elevuka creek (post-flood) further into town.  These fishing boats follow the creek to
the river and then to the ocean each day.  Note the tell-tale signs of the flood level in the
brown line up in the trees.
Nice legs!
View into the central portion of town.  The picture of us in the previous blog post standing in the
water was taken down on the main street.
Not a river! Normally, this is grassland at the base of the hill we live on.
The family stayed in this house, though moved what they could upstairs.  This view is looking
towards the central town area.
Koula street would have been our 2nd possible exit out of town -- but not on this day!
Note the "head gear" to preserve their health -- just plain strange.
P.S.  That boat belongs about a half mile down the road.
And here's our last exit route out of town.  Needless to say, we didn't leave town.
The inimitable Fijians!  Our friends, Iva and Ana Mateiwai were out playing rugby in the rain
with their family and neighborhood friends enjoying their rain bath.  Little did we know that
after the flood, the one thing we would all be looking for is water to bathe in.
These were my last "dry" clothes.  If it looks like my right shoulder and hip
are sagging -- they are.  I had just taken a hard fall and was grateful not
to have been taken to the Ba hospital -- a place of no return (everyone tells us
to NOT go to the Ba hospital because "you die there")
Happy Fijians on a rescue mission
In the next few shots, you'll see the market area and main anchor stores.  They were in the lowest area with water depth varying from 8-10 feet deep.
These stores really took the biggest hit.
Note debris level about one foot down from red siding
The "butcher" had just finished a new restaurant next to his meat shop.  It was a complete loss.  We asked him about it and he said: "It's just business -- always a risk."  He said it with a reserved smile
 and he'll probably be back at it again soon, perhaps with a revised plan of building a second level.
Scavenging for anything of value in the rubble which was swept out of a market 
Drying out all the loaf pans at one of the many "Hot Bread" shops
Not sure what they will be doing with all the garbage and damaged goods from stores
Shop owners lost anything they did not evacuate or couldn't get up on shelving higher than the water level.  The worst was the mud which caused land slides and took lives as well as business. All over the hills you see great areas where the earth gave way and sent tons of mud down onto roads and villages.

But with all the heartache, the Fijian saying is still: "Saga nalaga" - no worries.
We met this smiley fellow along side the road as we talked about the impact
of the flood on his village. "No worries - we can go up the hill to the stream
to bathe and the government brought  drinking water. We're fine!"
With no electricity, Annie got creative in a night time peek into the fridge.
Strangely, it wasn't until we were groping around in the kitchen that we
realized she'd left the candle in the fridge!
Ironically, we ate better during the flood that ever before because we knew everything was going to go bad soon.  The refrigerator was most vulnerable but gratefully the freezer kept things good for 3 days as long as we didn't open it but for a lighting quick retrieval of some goody to cook.

Some of the heart warming things we witnessed included:
* Our faithful ward clerk made his way to the church just in time to get most of the valuable things like computer, copiers, records, check book, stove, fridge, etc. up on creatively elevated stacks -- he saved it all.
* Fiji water being passed out through the Red Cross.  We joined them in line and could tell we weren't the only ones who were missing a daily bath.
* The flooding knocked down a lot of trees.  That's good news for all the villagers
who depend on wood for their daily cooking.

His grateful share of the harvest
* Our nearby corner store had a generator and was able to keep the store going, including refrigerated items.  The owner supplied all of the people stuck up on our hill and never hiked up the prices even though he was only one of the few who had supplies.  He was so kind and let people charge their phones (and we - our computer, phone, and camera).  A beggar came in one morning and he quickly reached over the counter handing him a couple of sweet treats.
* Our friends, the Nairoqos have been able to find work helping in the clean up.  That's been a blessing for cash strapped villagers like them.  On the way into town from their village, they had to swim a swollen creek that had become a quick moving river.  After Brother Nairoqo crossed, the police asked if he could go back and help a boy who was badly burned.  They made a litter, placed a float on it and then had the boy lay on that.  Tying a rope to the contraption, Brother Nairoqo swam across pulling the litter and the boy.
Saimoni and Elenoa Nairoqo
* Two people on our hill have their own wells.  They have been non-stop sharing their water with all who bring buckets, barrels, and bottles.  I'm sure they've given away thousands of gallons of precious water at no charge over the last few days.

And that brings us to the final and most difficult issue for everyone these days.  The daily search for water and quest for water conservation consumes both individuals and families.  It's just amazing how much we depend on water.  We do have drinking water but cooking, bathing, toilet, and laundry all require more.  The Fijians are washing clothes in the dirty rivers and streams and walk everywhere with buckets in the search for water.  Today the Nairoqos invited us to come to their home in the country to bathe at their open well -- how sweet of them.  It's under the Mango and Tamarind tree and partly hidden by the sugar cane.  A nice cozy place where they go early in the morning or evening using their sulus to cover themselves for privacy.  We love these people.  While taking them back home a couple days ago, we were concerned about the integrity of a bridge still under a few inches of water (formerly a raging river flowed through this).  Brother Nairoqo hopped out and waded around on the bridge to test it out and said it was fine.  While driving across he smiled and playfully offered: "Car wash?"

As for us, we have gotten very creative about water conservation.  In the kitchen, we boil a small amount of water for dishes and then sparingly rinse in a bowl.  The rinse water next becomes tomorrow's heated wash water and the old wash water gets poured in the toilet tank for flushing.  For our evening bath, we scoop out of a small bucket of clean water just enough to get the job done -- and we can do it in about 3 cups!  No hot water but we're quite used to the cold.  Long hot showers and regular toilet flushing are over rated anyway.  Water really is a problem of significant proportion and we have no assurance it is coming back soon.  Today, we even heard a report that it could be up to a month -- let's hope not.  More hard rain is forecast on Wednesday (about 6 inches expected) and flooding may reoccur.

We do want to assure everyone that we are well fed and safe.  We are assisting Church leaders here to organize visits in all the villages to check on the welfare of members.  They always have scant supplies but we know the Church will provide for members in special need and we're grateful for that.  We thank you all for your expressed concerns and we know you would help in anyway possible.  The Church is experienced in both local and international emergency relief and we're sure it will be available if needed.

Our love to you all ~ Annie & Tom


Matt said...

So glad you are safe at least. Would love to meet the Nairoqo family someday. What incredible love, giving and attitudes despite circumstances!

peggy said...

thank you for your sweet spirit and constant Love of the people and the willingness to serve... You are both my inspiration of strength and devotion to the gospel. Your love of our Lord flows from your words...Miss you and please know you are in my daily prayers..... be safe and keep the candles outta the fridge :).

Ditto Family said...

What a touching post. The positive attitude that sounds so prevalent among the people there is admirable. How scary to be with so little water...your years of conservative living are no doubt helpful now! Thank you for your diligence and willingness to be of service in any way possible. We pray for you daily and thank the Lord for your safety. Love, Birch

Ditto Family said...

Boy did I feel guilty AND blessed this morning as I enjoyed a long hot shower. Shbaths have never been a favorite of mine. Thank you for sharing the struggles and blessings that you and the other Fijian's have been experiencing. Just to think of you guys standing in line to receive water from the Red Cross really touched me. We love you and keep you always in our prayers.

Leah said...

So glad you guys are doing ok and I know you are a blessing to so many others. We're praying for usable water to come to you and those in Ba very soon. We love you.

Running Rinnes said...

What a humbling reminder to be grateful for all of things I daily squander. And, to be of good cheer, like the Fijians, even in troubled times.

After reading a short news item in the Washington Post ("Severe flooding and landslides kill 6 in Fiji") we have been really worried about you and the people you love and work with.

We'll continue to pray that you stay safe and that the weather is kind.

Love,Vicki & Heikki

Jessica said...

Wow. What a time you are having! We are praying for you and are so grateful you are safe.

Jan said...

Your experiences are both amazing and faith promoting. You always seem to have that great, positive attitude, no matter what you're having to deal with. I want to be like you when I grow up!