Michiel Vos, the principal administrator on Naitauba, managed to reach Roger Tonkin at our Suva administrative and shipping office at 7.35pm PST today, and passed on the following on a very bad satellite phone connection (there is no internet at this point, and may not be for a while):
“Everyone, including all our Fijian and other local staff members are safe, which is a great relief!”
The winds are still very strong so only a couple of people have ventured out to assess the situation.
The damage from this Category 5 storm, the strongest ever recorded in the South Pacific, appears to be at least 10 times worse than Cyclone Tomas (Category 4, 2010), which completely devastated the Island.
The primary temple on the Island, is fine, however most other structures, including residential buildings and many of the other temples on the Island, have not fared so well, including a temple complex on the eastern side of the Island which was severely damaged. Naitauba is 3 miles long and 2 miles wide consisting of 2,000 acres and so, with trees down on all the roads, getting around at this point is not easy and so the overall extent of the damage is not yet known. Two of the temples in the small village of Qaravi on the western side of the Island, where devotee residents of Naitauba live, have been impacted—one lost its roof altogether and the other suffered some damage to the roof, but it is not thought to be severe. There is no contact with the eastern side of the Island, called Lion's Lap, where another temple is located, but we are presuming it is okay as it was significantly upgraded after Cyclone Tomas.
Most of buildings in the Fijian village, Ciqomi, have been destroyed. All the Fijians are sheltering in the new large bure (a native Fijian structure that was built last year to withstand strong winds). A small part of the roof blew off during the storm, but they are all thankfully safe. The devotee village of Qaravi has suffered severe damage. Many buildings have lost their roofs or have been completely destroyed.
Aerial photograph of the destruction at Ciqomi village. The photo was taken by the New Zealand Defense Forces and published by the Fijian government on February 24th, 2016. (Click on photo to view full size image.)
The main Naitauba passenger and cargo boat, a 65 foot twin engine ocean going vessel was on a carriage on the slipway and out of the water undergoing routine maintenance. It was blown over on its side and the carriage was severely damaged so the process of getting this large heavy vessel upright and back in the water is a top priority as it is the main link to Taveuni where the airport and ferry services are. The 33 foot back-up boat was moored at another bay, but we have no news yet as to its fate.
Aerial photograph showing the Naitauba passenger and cargo boat on its side as a result of the storm. The photo was published by the Fijian government February 24th, 2016. (Click on photo to view full size image.)
They are trying to turn on the generators and restore power, but there is great concern about damaged electrical wiring in houses that have been destroyed causing fire if the power is turned on before they can be thoroughly checked and signed off so that will happen as soon as possible.
The damage list will obviously be much longer than the above initial summary, and we will keep everyone informed as we hear updates. The main thing for everyone to know is that everyone on the Island is in a complete state of shock at the scale of the devastation. It is utterly heart-breaking. Thus, there will be a great need for all manner of help in the coming days, weeks, and months. Financial help is essential. But more than anything, there is a need for people with trade skills and energy, to come to Naitauba to help. The small number of residents of Naitauba will need to feel a great outpouring of help from around the world as there is so much to be done. We urge everyone to begin to consider if you, or people you know with carpentry, plumbing and electrical skills, can come to help repair and restore this most precious and Holy Island. Hopefully we will know more soon as to all the needs, including the status of our neighboring Fijian islands and how they were impacted by the storm, what our marine transport situation will be, and when travel will again be possible. The sooner the better obviously! We look forward to an outpouring of financial and practical service help.
Thank you all for your prayers and support.