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Four swept to death by rogue waves

Tuesday 12 January 2016 | Published in Regional

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KIRITIMATI – Four people have reportedly been killed on Kiribati’s Christmas Island, in the Central Pacific, the result of wild seas kicked up by Cyclone Ula, one of the longest-running tropical storms ever.

The four people were in a car on a jetty when it was swept off by waves, according to a report compiled by Pacific news blogger Michael Field.

One Facebook group he is in touch with in the republic reported that Ula had hit Kiritimati, as the island is known locally, very badly.

“As a result four men have lost their lives,” the site, Island Rescue Project, reports.

“It is believed that the four men who lost their lives were in their car on the jetty when a massive wave hit the jetty, threw the men with their car into the sea and it smashed into a big container which had also been thrown into the sea by a massive wave.”

The site quotes a local, Ritemwa Moantau, saying that the jetty is quite high and in the past the waves have never reached to that height.

“People are still overwhelmed and are very concerned for their safety. Many homes have been destroyed and ruined by the wind and sea level rise.”

Moantau posted his own description of the storm: “Last night I could not sleep, the wind, waves, and rain became very strong. The waves grew and the sea washed over the land. The weather calmed down today, and we saw the destruction to our land.

“We lost four beautiful lives in the cyclone. All of us from Kiritimati mourn, and pray for you. Rest In Peace, Te Mauri, Te Raoi, ao Te Tabomoa.”

Pictures are from various Facebook sites showing the rescue attempts (pictured on this page).

Field writes in his blog: “Social media reports from Kiribati are also questioning whether the heavy damage inflicted on the atoll might also be a consequence of global warming created sea-level rise.

“It should also be noted though that Kiritimati is at the epicentre of the vast pool of super-heated Central Pacific waters that creates El Nino.

“Ula had a long gestation period. As a tropical depression it had already caused serious damage on Tuvalu and Tokelau to the west. Samoa’s capital Apia had flooded.

“As the new cyclone curved around Samoa and headed toward northern Tonga, Fiji and on toward Vanuatu, it caused phenomenal seas. Massive waves and swells have pushed out across the Pacific.

And this is what has led to the deaths in Kiribati – 2300 kilometres way.

Kiritimati is home to 5110 people. - PNC