Every day brings its own threat on atoll

Tuesday 24 March 2020 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Outer Islands


Every day brings its own threat on atoll
High seas reached Tukao school in Manihiki. 20032302

On Thursday the island of Manihiki held a Covid-19 prayer service. “People are worried for their families on Rarotonga and overseas,” says Tukao school principal Apii Napa.

But it wasn’t the coronavirus that arrived on their doorsteps the next morning – in was an unusually high tide that swept across the atoll.

“Someone came to warn us, say 5am, about our boat and of course the school,” Napa says. “No one got hurt, luckily, l suppose because it happened when people were sleeping.”

It was a reminder that on the outer islands, every day brings its own threats and challenges. Covid-19 is just one more.

“Listening to people who have lived here for so long, it was the worst high sea they’ve seen for a long time. They believe we were lucky there was no wind, otherwise it could have been worse.”

“They had predicted from the moon that there would be high seas, but no warning as to how high the sea would rise and not expecting this much water.”

The seas rose to the same height as the jetty; homes along the seashore as well as the school were affected. “People had to pull their boats further up to the road.”

On Tukao, people are practicing good hygiene and social distancing.

“We worry too about the ‘what if’ of a breakout here ... so even though we still want the plane and boat to come, we are wary of the risk.”

“People are preparing to collect perishable foods like breadfruit and bananas, to store in freezers in case there's no plane or boat.

“We conserve our imported goods and prepare to just live off the land and sea,” says Napa.

“From Manihiki, we think of our families in our prayers and want, take care and God bless us all.”