February 11, 2011

After effects

(This is part of an ongoing series chronicling memories of my life growing up as a missionary kid in Vanuatu. For links to previous posts you can go here)

The effects of the cyclones are felt for a long time after they pass by. As I mentioned we were never in Vanuatu when a cyclone went directly over us. But we would listen to the warnings to secure everything down. Cyclones season was during the end of year break, so often ones would hit when the college was empty, with just a few staff around. Dad would go through the college making sure everything that could fly around was inside or secured down.

The rain would fall like a sheet non-stop for a day or so and we would stand at the window to watch the wind blow anything not inside away. Large trees would be snapped in two, flexible trees would be pushed horizontal, and the dark clouds covered the sun so you needed hurricane lamps to see.

We would stay inside and play board games and read stories as we waited out the cyclone – so very thankful for a cyclone proof house that didn’t leak and enough food and supplies to keep us going until the storm passed. In villages people would huddle together in the strongest building – often the school or church.

Islands that had cyclones pass over them completely would have the worst effects. A cyclone would strip every leaf, fruit and flower from the trees. For people who rely on the vegetation as a main source of food this was devastating. I remember after one cyclone passed over part of Vanuatu a collection being taken up at Talua to send to the Islands with basically no food until plants would start to grow again. Entire villages would need to be rebuilt – bamboo and thatch houses are easily tossed around by the strong winds.

I wondered what happened before radio and communication. Did people know a storm was coming? Did they stay in their homes or try to shelter in caves if there were any? What did they do when the whole island barely had enough food?

(photo credit)

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