Mata’afa Keni Lesa: Cyclone Gita’s over but remember Ofa’s vengeance

Raging storm waters in Apia from Cyclone Gita. Image: Samoa Weather Watchers

OPINION: By Mata’afa Keni Lesa, editor of the Samoa Observer

Tropical Cyclone Gita has left just as quickly as it arrived on Friday night and yesterday morning.

Within six hours, it left hundreds of people devastated as a result of strong winds and flooding. Folks, it sends shivers down the spine to think what more damage it could have done if it stayed on a bit longer.

While it was predicted to be a Category 1 Cyclone, it felt more like a Category 3 at its strongest. We doubt many people had a decent sleep when the cyclone was at its peak.

READ MORE: NZ and Australia monitor path of Cyclone Gita after heavy damage in Samoa

The howling winds, the heavy rain and the floods that accompanied them were truly scary. Thank God it didn’t last long.

Mind you, for many people badly affected by heavy flooding, its irrelevant that Cyclone Gita was only in Samoa for a few hours. Heavy downpours for several days have once more taken its toll.

The flooding we again witnessed yesterday has to be among some of the worst we’ve seen in this country.

The worst affected areas appear to have been places close to the menacing Vaisigano river, which again showed just how devastating it can be in times like this.

Another Cyclone Evan
Looking at some of the early pictures
of the damage done, this is another Cyclone Evan and more. Images taken from other villages away from Apia showed that flooding was a major part of this cyclone and perhaps even more devastating than the winds.

When it comes to flooding, we thought we’d seen the worst during Cyclone Evan when it decimated areas like Lelata, Fa’atoiaand Vaisigano. Obviously not. This time it reached a lot more places – including as far as Moata’a.

And if scientists and climate change related predictions are anything to go by, flooding is something we will just have to get used to.

Truth be told, I guess the disappointment will have to be that the progress of work to try and avoid what happened during Cyclone Evan has not been quick enough to avoid a repeat.The fact is the same people who suffered back in 2012 have again been hit the hardest. It is heartbreaking to see.

Images of the damage that has again been done to iconic places like the Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel are just heartbreaking. It was only a few years ago that they managed to recover from Evan and now they have been hit again.

And spare a thought for many other families in the areas – many of them having had to be evacuated.

The good news is that we have not been told of any casualties yet. When this piece was compiled last night, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi confirmed that no report of any casualty has been brought to their attention.

But let’s not be complacent.

It is true that Cyclone Gita is moving away from us. But lessons from the past should always be a reminder to us that it’s not over until it is really over.

Remember what happened during Cyclone Ofa? Just when we thought that the worst was over, Ofa returned with a vengeance.

This is today’s editorial in the Samoa Observer.

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