Friday, 26 October 2007 10:48 AM

A Tsunami Survivor Recalls Tragedy

The 2nd of April 2007 is marked in the history of Solomon Islands, in particular the Western Solomons, as the 'dark day' for the nation as a whole.

An early morning earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter Scale was to be a drastic change for the worse for a lot of families in the Western Solomons.

A tsunami took place straight after the earthquake, wiping away homes along the coastlines, taking dozens of lives and leaving thousands homeless.

Six months on after the tragedy, a still traumatized father of 4 tells his story about the tragic event that has changed the lives of many families.

The man from Simbo, an island off the Western Province, Nivea Liveb recalled waking up to very strong shaking.

"I woke up to this very strong shaking, and the first thing that came to mind was that it was the end of the world," Nivea said.

He recalled: "I could hardly stand up, it was like being in the middle of the ocean trying to navigate your boat to safety through stormy weather."

Nivea and his family are based at his wife's village at Vavanga, Kolombangara, North West of Gizo and 20 minutes by speedboat.

He was with two of his children in Gizo that week for medical purpose when the tragedy took place.

"We were at my sister's house while in Gizo at that time and I had to grab hold of my two children to get them to safety," Nivea said.

People were running everywhere, it was chaos and panic was on the rise as the situation was one never before experienced in the area.

"If what has happened was something we've experienced before, maybe people would have been more in control of themselves," he said.

The earthquake shook for 2 and half minutes, Nivea recalled, and three minutes following the shake, "to my surprise, the sea suddenly dried up for about 15-20 minutes".

"It didn't really register that tsunami would strike, but something in my mind told me to run up the hills with my two children," he said.

Nivea and his two children were the last to evacuate the medical compound, except for the sick patients at the Gizo hospital.

"It was pure luck that the waves missed the hospital, otherwise there would have been a higher death toll with all the sick patients confined to their beds," he said.

In the midst of panic, nurses and hospital staff fled the hospital, leaving behind sick patients and "if things had gone all wrong and waves had hit the compound, there was no one to evacuate them all".

Nivea said that despite having lost close relatives in the tragedy, "I really thank God, and am always thanking God for sparing my life and my two children."

With the help of the Solomon Islands Government and other stakeholders and donors, people like Nivea have been able to rebuild life back to a good start.

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