Salacieli, 10, tells of her Fiji night of terror as her mum dies

Devastated ... Salacieli Serevi, 10, was told by her mother to look after her baby sister as she ran back to her death. Image: Solomone Rabulu/Fiji Times

By Mere Naleba in Tailevu for The Fiji Times

As strong winds and waves pounded Qelekuro Village in Fiji’s Tailevu province on the main island of Viti Levu on Saturday night, the wails of one-year-old Vive Marama were still heard loud and clear.

Every villager was asking where her mother, Sera Tinai, was.

Marama’s elder sister, 10-year-old Salacieli Serevi, tried to comfort her and every other villager in the darkened village hall also tried to pacify the toddler with pancakes and food.

Villagers said it was probably at the time when Tinai was struggling to survive in waist deep sea water that had seeped into the village.

The body of Tinai, one of 17 victims of severe tropical cyclone Winston (unofficial) so far, was found five metres away from a house where some family members were sheltered.

She still had on her back a bag that contained her children’s clothes, which she had gone to fetch after leaving her children in the village hall.

“She told me to wait here [hall], and that she would come back for us,” Salacieli said.

Flattened home
Yesterday, she and her siblings were at their flattened home trying to pick what was left of it.

Village headman Autiko Naitini said they only noticed Tinai missing when her daughter could not stop crying. They searched for her when the winds had died.

He said Tinai probably was enroute to the village hall when she decided to go to another house used as an evacuation centre to seek shelter as the winds got stronger.

But before she reached that house, the rooftop of another house flew by and landed on her.

Naitini said her bag was stuck to the roof, which could have hampered her movement. That and the sea flooding contributed to Tinai’s sad demise.

She is survived by her husband and nine children.

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