Fijian spirit unites NZ flood victims

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Families at Saint Leonard’s School Hall which is being used as an evacuation centre. Picture: COURTESY OF VALDA HAZELMAN.

In the midst of raging floodwaters and landslides engulfing Auckland, the Fijian spirit united communities in a time of great adversity.

Valda Hazelman, a resident of Henderson, West Auckland, said families were devastated and tired because everything happened within the blink of an eye.

“A few Fijian friends of mine living in Mount Eden had texted saying that their homes were flooded,” the former Savusavu resident said.

“Because of this, they had to find refuge with their friends and other family members.”

Ms Hazelman said the hall of Saint Leonards Road School in Kelston was used as an evacuation centre for affected families.

“I thought it was pretty amazing that the school’s principal gave permission for the community to use the hall as an evacuation centre for families – it was quite nice that everyone found somebody to lean on.

“I had gone to help at the hall at around 1.30am yesterday morning and left at 4am. We also had the Red Cross team, the Royal New Zealand Air Force and other emergency organisations that came to work from the hall as well.

“We didn’t take count of the number of families because that was done by the Red Cross, so we just made sure everyone was okay and that they had towels, clothes, they were warm and we also put out bed stretchers and the other bits of ensuring the names and addresses of families was done by the Auckland Council.”

She said the deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni was present to help.

“It was really good to have our deputy PM there. She was the voice of the Pacific islanders who were present because everyone had really gone through a lot.”

Fijian citizen Angelle Deo, who resides in Waitakere, West Auckland, said seeing communities come together made her feel like she was in Fiji.

“It is not Fiji but we are Fijians living here and the quick help of communities in Auckland is the one thing that makes us feel like we are back at home,” she said.

“When in Fiji during a cyclone or natural disaster, you have family members and neighbours just pitching in to help in any way that they can but when you go to another country you just feel so alone but living in and finding a community that comes together during hard times as such just makes you feel at home.

“We had no electricity and our roads were closed off because of landslides but apart from that, my family was safe.

“But the main thing that I would take out of this is the fact that the community was there from the get go which was amazing and in the future we know that during hard times we can always count on our community.”

At least three deaths were recorded by NZ authorities as of yesterday afternoon. A state of emergency was also declared for the region in place for seven days.

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