Ateca Naquva lies on her neighbor's floor surrounded by her grandchildren. Her 11-month old namesake Ateca (in blue jumper) sits nearby, oblivious to the sacrifice her grandmother made when Cyclone Winston tore down their home and the walls collapsed in on them.
Ateca Naquva is surrounded by her grandchildren after a harrowing weekend (Picture: UNICEF Pacific/2016/Vlad Sokhin)
As the walls crashed around them, Ateca’s protective instincts kicked in, lunging to shield her granddaughter with her body, taking the full force of the falling tin walls. That’s how they found them in the wreckage. The elder Ateca shielding the younger, and bleeding profusely from a serious head wound.
“The cyclone came around 6pm then the winds picked up and the house started to shake. Before we could get out of the house it collapsed and fell” says her family.
Ateca’s relatives found the pair under the wall of their home and carried them to the church where a young father was also receiving medical attention.
Her neighbour Sera grimaces as she says “The old lady’s bleeding wouldn’t stop and we just needed to get them to the hospital, we even tried searching for traditional herbal medicine that we use to stop bleeding but the winds were too strong”.
The village’s young men then arrived at the hall and were shocked at the severity of the injuries they saw. They quickly organised a truck and armed themselves with cane knives and chainsaws in anticipation of the debris-covered roads.
Ateca Naquva’s family sit in their neigbour’s home where they are taking shelter (Picture: UNICEF Pacific/2016/Vlad Sokhin)
“The boys wouldn’t be deterred, they just got out there while the winds were still strong and got the injured onto a truck safely and started the journey” says Sera.
What would normally take 45 minutes to get from Navolau No. 1 village to the nearest hospital in Rakiraki took the young men four hours of dodging power lines and cutting and clearing fallen trees. At the Rakiraki bridge they faced an even bigger hurdle, the bridge was badly damaged and underwater.
The view of Navolau No.1 village from the main road, the devastation that Cyclone Winston left is widespread. (Picture: UNICEF Pacific/2016/Vlad Sokhin)
Undeterred, two of the young men battled the raging currents to get to the Fire Station; the firemen were then able to bring them across the bridge to the hospital to receive urgent medical attention.
“She’s in and out of consciousness but the babies stay close to her, especially baby Ateca, she seems to sense her grandmother needs love” says Sera. After receiving medical care at the overloaded Rakiraki Hospital, itself badly affected, Ateca was escorted back to the village by police and remains in a stable condition at home. Her family is hoping to return for further care as soon as they can obtain transport.
Neisau worked as an online communications consultant for UNICEF Pacific and was deployed into the field post TC Winston to cover human interest stories, this piece was published on their blog and in the Fiji Sun on March 3, 2016.