Tropical Cyclone Winston, which destructed nearly half of Fiji’s geographic structure, is still embedded as a huge fear within the hearts of many Rakiraki citizens.
The road to Rakiraki which was once filled with severely damaged forests, completely blown homes, broken power lines and damage bridges, is now being rebuild by various officials and people of Ra.
While getting into Rakiraki zone, just a few miles ahead of Barotu village, a group of three Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA) workers along with their team leader Vivek Naidu, were spotted to be repairing the broken power lines.
“My team has been working here since the past three weeks to repair the broken power lines”, said Naidu.
One of the team members, Amitesh Chandra said that the repair work which is currently being carried out deals with replacing of conductors, broken lines and poles, changing of cross-arms and transformers.
“With the repair work being carried out, all of our projects are currently on hold since we are focusing on getting electricity to the cyclone affected areas”, said Chandra
47 year old Ovini Nayacakuru, the sole breadwinner for family of eight, says that it is challenging for his family to get food even today from when the cyclone hit Ra.
“I had three dozen of goats before the cyclone but am now left with one dozen only because some died and others ran away during the cyclone”, he said.
Having his yaqona and dalo farm in Nailuva, Nayacakuru stays in Rakiraki so his children can go to school.
His crops were destroyed by TC Winston and it will take the crops months to grow; Nayacakuru is selling his last dozen of goats to feed the family.
Nayacakuru recieved $7000 from Help for Homes plan by the government and has recently bought timber to build his house.
His house, which did not have any floor, was completely flooded and damaged by TC Winston and he says that it was hard to get timber from hardware shops because it all ran out.
“I just bought the timber last week and was able to get good material with the money I got from the government.”
“This time, I will build my house six feet above the ground so I can prevent future flooding from such kinds of disasters.”
“For us, poverty has increased since we lost most of our valuables in TC Winston and it will take months and maybe years to get back to what our lives were like previously,” he stressed.
Going a bit ahead of Nayacakuru’s house, we come across Narayan Singh, 42 year old resident of Wairuku who suffered $1500 worth of damage from TC Winston.
The sugarcane cutter who lives with his 39 year old wife says that they have managed to get their lives together after TC Winston.
Yogita Mala, Singh’s wife says that it took them two to three weeks to get all of the household materials dried up in the sun.
She is a housewife but generates income by selling live chicken, pot plants and vegetables.
They had 36 live chicken and are now left with 15, all her flowers and vegetables were destroyed but she managed to regrow them from the past two months.
She says that there are a lot of poor families who were affected by Winston; however she believes that with the aid from various organisations and help from families and government, people can build up themselves and not wait to be spoon fed.
“We got food rations only three times; the first ration we got was for each person in the family which consisted of two kg rice, two kg flour, two kg dhal, two cans of Sunbell tuna and two spoons of powdered milk,” she said.
The Executive Director of Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (PIANGO), Emele Duituturaga defines poverty as decrease in household income, quality of food and livelihood.
“Keeping the definition in mind, very clearly TC Winston would have impacted negatively on the lives of people which means that it would put a lot more people below the poverty line,” she said.