The amazing spirit of the community at Namuamua after the devastating April 15th (2004) flood

report by Scott Balson on location (June 2004)

It says something for a people so removed from western ways that, without any financial aid, this small community-based culture can recover from a devastating flood in just a few weeks. While the mud still lay thick on the ground in parts the village homes and Church had been totally restored to their former glory. Before this flood the village went under water in 1994 with Hurricane Kina and in 1980 with Hurricane Wally. The worst flooding at Namuamua occurred in 1972 when, as a result of Cyclone Bebe, the river rose an amazing twenty metres - covering the entire village and the valley around it.

Image right: the floodwaters went above the beam above the entrance portal to the church 

But as Tomasi puts it, "Brother this flood was bigger than hurricane Kina but not as big as Wally".

Ed and Carly left Namuamua on the 14th April - now how lucky is that - see their comments here!

Extract:...When we got back to the village (of Naiseuseu) we were told that Namuamua (the second village we had stayed at) had been partly washed away by the huge floods the day before. Much of the south area was flooded (we were ok because we were on a sand island ! Phew!) Although many of peoples household items had been washed over to Beqa - an hour and a half boat ride from the mainland!

While Andrew and Rachel Meikes (Andrew recorded our first FijiBure.com CD) were the first guests to witness the devastation last month. (Andrew was there and heard the loud rumble of the landslide near the Wainuta falls)

So just how big was this flood?

For those of you who have had the pleasure of visiting Namuamua the flood went over the portal of the Methodist Church opposite the new guest house - in other words all the houses on the bottom level of the village, and the school, were completely submerged under water.

In the seven hours leading up to the flood 425mm of rain fell between 10pm and 5am (15 April) - that's about 18" in just seven hours! The image on the right (click for details) is the official rainfall figures taken by Tomasi this year (2004). In April over 1000mm of rain would have fallen - for the week following the flood the rain gauge situated beside the FijiBure.Com guest house was out of action. At this time Tomasi and his family slept in the Catholic Church - the rivers joining just a metre below its foundations high above his home. As I mentioned earlier our guests Ed and Carly left the day before!

In less than six months a conservative estimate of 2.5 metres of rain has fallen at Namuamua - way above average!

Ema, Tomasi's daughter, laughingly told me how they gathered up all the mats and mattresses at 5am on the morning of the 15th April as the water from the two rivers surrounding their village rose menacingly around their feet. "All Tomasi was interested in was recording the rainfall because the rain gauge was (for the first time ever) overflowing!" 

Tomasi is the person in charge of collating the daily rainfall for the Fijian Weather Bureau in Suva. (This is the only rain gauge in Namosi). He says that this is the wettest year that the village has ever experienced - over 100mm falling in a single day on a regular basis for a couple of months (see chart). This should not deter visitors from visiting Namuamua as things have now returned to normal and you will be able to see first hand how this remarkable community has been able to rebuild itself, in part, thanks to the visitors who have visited and stayed at the village. While I was up there the weather was perfect - as you can see from the images below.

Tragically many of their crops have been simply washed away and, because of the steep terrain, crops planted on the riverbanks were often the catalyst for landslides. As a result the village needed food aid which the Government had, at the time of my arrival, dumped at Navua Town, without allowing for the cost of fuel for the water taxis to get the food to the starving villagers. Thankfully the money received from FijiBure.com's guests saved the day.

The traditional grass community hall was washed away in the flood and a small raised floor is all that remains of this traditional meeting place. A new hall is being built alongside the Church and I am honoured to learn that it will be called the Scott Balson Hall.

Here are some images I took while at Namuamua during my stay 14th-15th June 2004:

Ema and Tomasi looking at the
photos sent by Marie and Klaas

Scott Balson with the village
"Mayor" and Tomasi

Ema in front of the Church - Ema
sings the soprano on the CD

An acre of cassava washed away
look carefully to see Tomasi

More crops lost to the floods

The power of the river - removing
large bamboo stands

Where the community hall once
stood

The remains of the community
hall lie down the bank

Click on this image to see just
how high the water rose

Click on this image above to see
the bures covered by water

The Catholic Church where Tomasi
lived - click to see flood level

Eramasi on the track to
Namuamua's famous Wainuta
waterfall

Wainuta waterfall - in flood

The base of the Wainuta
waterfall - no swimming in this pool
today!!!

It wasn't just the crops that were
It was the biggest landslide that
This is on the way to

devastated - a rock face falls.
Tomasi has ever witnessed.
the Wainuta falls.

The images in this row
demonstrate how high the
water level went downstream
of the village.


Footnote: While I am respecting Tomasi's wishes in not setting up a fund to help the village financially I will be doing this in the future. The trustees will be Judith Batibasaga at Namatakula and myself - with Judith having the authority to draw funds to go to villages in Fiji facing some dilemma. If you do want to offer some help to Namuamua in the interim please email me and I will ensure that the money/clothing etc gets to the village.

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