Gita, Tonga and Marist Sports Week

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 16 February 2018, 12:00AM

How time flies. This time last week, our nation was just waking up to the devastation left by the fury of Cyclone Gita. 

Thank God it remained, at worst, a category 2 and it moved away quickly. That was perhaps the best part that it arrived earlier than expected and by daylight it had gone. 

And while most parts of Samoa were spared where residents only had to clear away fallen trees and damaged vegetation, others were not so lucky. 

The worst affected areas – especially around the Vaisigano river - were badly hit by flooding with many of the families there needing to evacuate. Their homes and properties were destroyed by water, washing away some of their much-valued properties.

There is no doubt that for many of these people, this week would have been a tough one. Returning to homes, businesses and workplaces to see the ruins and what remained would have been a heart breaking experience. 

The clean up process would have been a painstaking one also, requiring lots of strength and courage.

But someone else always has it worse than us and when it comes to Cyclone Gita, we don’t have to look far.  

Across the Pacific waters in Tonga, Gita showed absolutely no mercy a few days later. It arrived on the Kingdom with such force that it flattened their Parliament building and just about everything else on its path in Tonga. 

We don’t need to describe the damage. Pictures of the devastation are more than enough to tell the story.

Suffice to say, Samoa’s devastation is mild compared to Tonga. And while the emergency response in terms of utilities and basic living amenities in Samoa has been nothing but impressive courtesy of a well coordinated approach by the government and the private sector, we cannot say the same for our Polynesian brothers and sisters in the kingdom. 

It will be a while for them to get back on their feet and that’s going to require a lot of assistance from overseas, which we hope they will receive.

The truth is we feel for the people of Tonga. As a country vulnerable to natural disasters, especially cyclones, the people of Samoa know what a category 4 cyclone is capable of. We’ve experienced it before and it’s not something we would wish on anyone, anywhere. 

Besides, cyclones as we’ve seen have minds of their own. They destroy and kill indiscriminately. They don’t care whether we are ready for them or not. They come when they feel like it and they land anywhere at anytime. An added dynamic to cyclones of late is their duration and the places they strike.

Gone are the days when a cyclone would only hit Samoa – or another Pacific country for that matter - before it disperses. Cyclones of today are different. They act like cruise ships visiting island after island. Gita is a classic example. It started over Fiji, came to Samoa, missed Niue, smashed Tonga and nearly two weeks later, it is still developing and heading to New Zealand. 

What is going on? Has the world become smaller? Has the Pacific shrunk? 

Or is this just another reminder to climate change deniers like Donald Trump and many people out there that when small island states talk about the issue, this is literally a matter of life and death? 

Let’s hope they are paying attention because this is serious stuff. Here in this part of the world, we are not talking about a theory from a study somewhere by someone commissioned by a corporate entity to prove a point. No we are talking about real life events affecting real people.

The photos from Tonga are not fake news. And so are the photos of the devastation caused by flooding at Vaisigano and all other places in the Pacific this week – including American Samoa. This is the reality today. 

And it’s not going to be the last either. Scientists predict that while cyclones will not only strengthen and become more frequent, flooding will worsen too. Yes it’s scary but true.

Looking at the damage in Tonga, we know that could have easily been us.  We spare a thought for the people of Tonga and whisper a prayer for their recovery.

We also pray that everyone in Samoa who needs help will get it. Soon.

But life goes on and amidst the doom and gloom of Cyclone Gita’s recovery; the Marist Sports Week has been a welcome reprieve for everyone. 

The decision by the Marist Sports Club Executive to persevere with their plans despite Gita is admirable. They ought to be commended because they could have easily thrown the towel given the circumstances. 

But they didn’t and what we have witnessed instead this week is a wonderful celebration of not just sporting talents but the unity with which the Marist family, sponsors and members of this community come together to embrace such events. 

You only had to be at the Marist grounds yesterday for the first day of the 30th Marist International Sevens to know how special that feeling is. And for that we congratulate President Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio, the Executive of Marist Sports Club, all the sponsors who have made this week possible and last but not the least the winners of the different competitions – including the Sevens today.

 Speaking of the Sevens, we hope the top prize and the Marist trophy stays in Samoa this time. Auckland Marist has won the tournament twice now. Nothing wrong with that but it would be nice for a local rooster to crow at Lotopa today.

What do you think?

Have a fabulous weekend Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 16 February 2018, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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