The father-in-law of one of those who died has spoken of the pleading cellphone call he received from his son’s wife.
“We’re stuck in the river, please come quickly,” 25-year-old Sheenal Mudliar cried out as floodwater engulfed the vehicle she was travelling in.
Sheenal and her father, Veer Goundar, had left her father-in-law’s home in Nadi about 4.30am on Sunday heading for Nadi International Airport to pick up her younger brother who was arriving from New Zealand.
Her father-in-law, Damodran Mudliar, responded to the call and drove to the scene.
“The rain was pouring and the wind was also quite strong, and when I got to the Uciwai Bridge at about 5.10am, I couldn’t see anything,” the distraught canegrower said.
“My daughter-in-law’s voice kept going round and round in my head and I got out of my car with a friend and we crossed to the bridge to try and look for them.”
Mudliar said the current was strong which made the search difficult.
“We kept looking for about half-an-hour and when the water level went down a little bit, I drove to Nawai Police Post and reported the matter.”
Sheenal’s husband, Sandeep, was too grief-stricken to speak about the tragedy.
A search party organised by the family with the assistance of nearby villagers recovered Sheenal’s body later in the morning. Her father’s body was found about 4.30pm the same day.
In a seperate tragedy, a tormented husband has told the Fiji Times how he could not hold on to his wife’s hand as floodwaters engulfed their home on Sunday.
“My heart is broken,” 50-year-old Jagdish Shand said.
Still bearing injuries sustained during the incident, he said his family was caught off-guard by the intensity of the floods brought on by torrential rain.
He said he never imagined the water would turn violent and take the life of his wife, Saroj Lata, just minutes after they decided to move to higher ground.
“At first, I didn’t think too much of it. We had flooding before but never to this extent but we were still cautious.
“About 7am, we noticed the water had started to come in from the back of the house and we knew we had to leave.
“We prepared to leave but then the water started coming from the opposite direction as well.
“When we left our home, my young son and wife were with me and the water was below our knees.
“By the time we reached a power pole just a few metres away, the water level rose to our waists. That’s how quickly the water level rose.”
All three held on to the power pole as neighbours watched helplessly.
Chand said all he could remember was clinging to the power pole with one hand and his wife’s hand with the other.
He wasn’t sure when a tree branch hit his head.
Disoriented, he let go of the pole. Soon after he realised he could no longer feel his wife’s grip.
“I don’t know what happened but our hands slipped and she was swept away.
“When I let go, I was swept away too. I remember the neighbours yelling at my son to hold on or else he would be swept away too, and he did.”
The body of the mother of three was retrieved several hours later.
He said while he had suffered about $70,000 in damage to his property, losing his wife was the hardest.
“At the end of the day, there’s no price that can be put on a life.”
The police director of operations, Livai Driu, said the search continues for two people, a seven-year-old boy and 19-year old-man, who were swept away by floodwaters in separate incidents.
The extensive flooding associated with Tropical Cyclone Josie which wreaked havoc across Fiji’s Western Division was caused by unusual high tides combined with excessively high rainfall.
Meteorological Service director Ravindra Kumar told the Fiji Times: “We are anticipating another low pressure system this week that will bring heavy rainfall, but we do not anticipate the impact to be as big as what happened last weekend.
Kumar urged people living in low-lying areas and near waterways to remain vigilant in anticipation of more rain this week.
He said the cyclone season which officially ends in April may bring more bad weather into May.- PNC sources