Cyclone Winston has destroyed thousands of homes across Fiji, with countless people displaced, without shelter, food and water.
On Koro Island, among the hardest hit by the eye of the storm, is a beautiful village called Nasau, hometown to our dear friend and YWAM Townsville staff member, Inia Saranuku. Only weeks ago, Inia and his new bride Naomi, who also serves at YWAM Townsville, were celebrating their new marriage in the village.
With phone lines and electricity down, Inia & Naomi waited for six days before they finally heard from their family.
“When my mother first heard my voice this morning she cried – it took her a while to finally be able to share their story and how they miraculously survived.
“My parents, brothers, sisters and nieces and nephews were bunkering down in our family home when the cyclone hit. They were prepared for strong winds, but they weren’t prepared for the tidal waves that plummeted the village and demolished everything in their path.
“As the first wave hit, my brother cried out to the family, ‘if we don’t leave now, we’re going to die!’ at that moment my father was holding my four year-old sister, he dropped her as one of the walls of our home fell on him. My father made it out from under the rubble and picked up my sister before they all fled what was left of our home – the water was up to their waists.
“In the rain and the wind with the kids on their backs, my parents and siblings swam in the water toward higher ground. Before they made it, the second wave hit; my 9-year-old sister was swept off my Mother’s back, taken by the force of the water. She managed to hang on to a tree and held on for dear life as she called out for help. Thankfully, my mother and father found her and rescued her from the tree.
“After swimming and wading in the water for about a kilometer, they finally made it to a tree on a hill. They huddled around the tree for seven hours; shivering, exhausted, afraid and in shock. The only food and water they had was one coconut between them that my Dad was able to find.
“In the midst of the devastation, my mother shared that she had a confidence that they would be okay – she spoke re-assuring, hope-filled words over my family as the children sought warmth under her clothes.
The ‘tree’ that the Saranuku family gathered around for seven hours waiting for the storm to die down.
“They finally made it to the Pastor’s house once the wind had died down – they were the last family from the east side of the village to make it. Over eighty people gathered in the remaining two rooms of the house and waited for help,” said Inia.
The death toll has now risen to 44; one of the lives lost was Inia’s cousin’s 10-month-old son, who was swept from his mother’s arms by a tidal wave. In a country of only 900,000 people, not many have escaped the impact from this category five cyclone; the worst storm to have ever hit the southern hemisphere.
Food and water have since been supplied to Koro Island along with temporary shelter. The Saranuku family now begin to look to the future and the long road ahead as they make plans to rebuild their home; a home that was renovated just a month ago as a part of Naomi & Inia’s wedding celebration. If you would like to contribute finances to go towards helping their family rebuild their home, you can do so by clicking here.
The remains of the Saranuku family home.
In response to the devastation from Cyclone Winston, YWAM Townsville will be sending an outreach team to help rebuild Fiji.
Join the team by signing up for our April DTS. Your journey will start in Townsville, Australia where you’ll join other young people from all over the world for 12 weeks of training aimed at equipping you in your faith and skills before traveling to Fiji for a six week outreach.
This is more than just your average missions trip. As you join in the vision of rebuilding Fiji with other like-minded young people, we believe that God has something special to rebuild in your life too.
Will you join us as we invest into the future of a nation?