Today at 12 noon local time a ship called the Sea Rakino was scheduled to leave the capital of Fiji, Suva. It is heading to Northern Lau, in the eastern part of Fiji. Its first stop, in 24 hours or so, will be the island of Naitauba. It will then travel on to other islands in the Lau group. It is bringing a huge load of equipment, tools, medical supplies, food, and other necessities.
We received the following words via satellite phone from one of the volunteers who arrived on Naitauba yesterday, Stanley Hastings:
"Everyone in Fiji is in a state of shock. We flew over Koro Island on the way to Naitauba. It received a direct hit from the cyclone, as did our island. We were struck by the scenes of absolute destruction. The villages there were literally flattened. Fiji is going to need extraordinary help."
Stanley at Los Angeles airport on his way to Naitauba
"Remote islands are in desperate need of food and water. The seaplane pilot said that he had been to the biggest island in Lau, called Vanuabalavu, a few days ago. He was so moved by the plight of the people there and how little aid had reached them to date that he raised money from the staff of the seaplane company immediately and sent a plane back there with emergency supplies."
Aerial photograph of the destruction of a village on the island of Vanuabalavu. The photo was published by the Fijian government February 24th, 2016.
"The residents of Naitauba were so delighted to receive the first volunteers yesterday. It was a huge shot in the arm for them to see help coming from outside."
"No words can describe how bad it is here. The island has lost thousands of trees, and all the leaves have been stripped off of what remains. It is a scene of utter devastation. Many buildings have been destroyed, among them residences and two principal Temples. Fortunately, a lot of buildings survived, especially the ones that have been reconstructed or reinforced in recent years. Others had their roofs blown off and can be repaired. But it will take a great and consistent effort to restore everything."
"One of the most devastating scenes of destruction is at the Matrix (a complex of Temples that are held most sacred in Adidam). The principal buildings at the Matrix, where Adi Da Samraj resided for many years, and which is a principal place of pilgrimage for His devotees, have suffered great damage. The storm surges broke through into these most sacred spaces by smashing through the shutters that were placed over the doors and windows and vents, even though the structures themselves held up well. Huge tidal waves came from two directions, south and west. It was overwhelming. There is now a lot of sand and other debris in all the rooms. Many sacred items have been damaged. It reminds me of the images I saw of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. An extraordinary effort will be needed to clean up and restore these environments. Crews have been working intensively on clearing the road to the Matrix so more people can go there to help. All access to this point has been via punts. The road crew is expected to break through to the Matrix later today."
It is obvious in the aftermath of the cyclone that the master plan for Naitauba has to be reconsidered. What is of greatest importance is to protect and maintain the Island because of its unique spiritual nature, the source place of Adi Da Samraj's work. So, we will need to rebuild many of our facilities on higher ground. Global climate change is now producing storms of such fierceness that huge storm surges are to be expected, even at low tide (Winston passed over Naitauba at low tide). These surges will break through any barriers we try to put in place. So moving to higher ground is a necessity now. Also, we will need to reinforce all our structures, not just the ones recently rebuilt or remodeled.
In the immediate situation, we simply need great help in cleaning up, fixing residences and infrastructure that can be repaired, getting the big boat that carries all our weekly freight and passengers back in the water (a massive engineering task because it is huge and heavy and it was knocked over on its side, off the rail carriage that is used to bring it in and out of the water), replanting our farm, etc. In this respect the island made another plea today for more volunteers with skills to help in the recovery effort, especially carpenters, electricians, and plumbers. Stanley said that extraordinary gifts of money and resources will be necessary to fund the restoration, because the damage has been so extensive.
Also, it bears repeating that while we work to restore Naitauba, the rest of Fiji is enduring a major humanitarian crisis as a result of the cyclone. We will be doing all we can to help with that. Your prayers and support for the poor people of Fiji are most deeply appreciated in this situation.