Monday, 9 February 2009 3:12 PM

Killer Floods Linked to Log Ponds

Collapsed 'log ponds' built in-land by logging companies are strongly linked to the floods that killed ten people and caused so much damage on west Guadalcanal, and not by the heavy rain as first thought.

The National Express newspaper obtained opinions from villagers along north-west Guadalcanal and experts in support of this.

This suggestion was even more so revealing in a compelling face-to-face interview with Ranata Kakae of Mataruka village in the Aruligo area.

Mrs. Kakae lost her husband, Stephen Lugu, with another adult male and a child on the night of the flash floods, Friday 30th January 2009.

She said the flash floods took place around one or two early Friday morning with the village hearing "a noise that first sounded like a huge rock being noisily moved over land."

The noise kept increasing and as it got closer, "the noise sounded like the sea and it was fast coming."

It was revealed that there is a "very small river" nearby but the noise was not coming from the direction of the river.

"It was coming from the direction of the mountains behind our village and coming very fast," she said.

While all five children survived, her husband died and she was found unconscious on Friday morning, and later taken to the National Referral Hospital on a RAMSI helicopter on Saturday the 31st January 2009.

The now single mother said that although she had no personal knowledge of the log ponds, "everyone in my village and around the area said it is the logging companies operating inland that had caused the flash floods."

Based on reports received by the National Express, most of the damage and deaths occurred in the area between Poha River and Visale.

All the eight bridges in that area have been damaged, but while the actual super structures of the bridges remain largely intact, stretch of roads at both ends of each of the eight bridges have been extensively and badly damaged.

According to expert opinions, the general damage, but moreso to the bridges and roads connected to them, were very likely to be the work of very powerful flash floods.

"They have to be massive amounts of reservoirs located in the mountainous areas and on higher altitude to have caused such powerful flash floods. The nature of some of the damages is very consistent with the work of flash drives."

Another example, according to sources, is the area around the Sasa River in the Kohimarama area where the flash floods caused extensive damage right down to the sea.

This suggests that the volume of the flash floods was so massive to the extent that even when it got to the lower coastal land areas and spread out along the coastal flat land, the volume of water must have been so huge that it could still continue to maintain a high level of water which still created a powerful force that caused so much damage right down to the sea.

More than ten different sources have told the Express that logging companies operating in the mountainous areas in northwest Guadalcanal had constructed what they call 'log ponds.'

Some of our expert sources believe that if the story told by the villagers is accurate, what the logging companies did was to have blocked off rivers higher up the mountainous areas, using possibly logs and earth to create a reservoir to create a reliable supply for their camp sites.

Our sources said that the logging companies need the water to provide reliable cooling systems for their heavy machineries and also for human consumption.

When the National Express asked them about the possibility of natural blockades of rivers in land, thus creating a reservoir that burst and causing the flash floods, our sources said this was unlikely.

It was explained that there are only two possible sources of natural blockades: landslides and logs.

Experts said that the rain which started on Wednesday in some parts of Guadalcanal, but in earnest throughout Thursday, and the floods that occurred early Friday morning makes landslides a very unlikely scenario.

"You need a slightly longer period of continuous rain for a massive landslide to happen and more time for the reservoir to build up."


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