Skip to main content

Raglan survivors of tsumani eye new path to safety

Memories flooded back for tsunami survivor Diane Cederman recently when she and husband Brent re-visited Western Samoa six months on from the devastation that wiped out the tiny beach resort of Lalomanu where their good friend and longtime Raglan identity Mary Ann White lost her life.
It was “a bit freaky”, admits Diane, staying in a newly rebuilt fale on the beach which, coincidentally, bore the same number — 11 — that they’d occupied when tragedy struck last September and turned their tropical holiday with the Whites into a nightmare.
“It wasn’t a very relaxed night’s sleep,” confessed Diane last week, talking particularly about the first of three nights spent in the fale this time round.
“I was very aware of things,” she says, referring to the sound of the sea on the island. “But I don’t believe it (the tsunami) is going to happen twice.”
Diane however remains concerned at the rudimentary escape path built by the islanders to prepare for people’s safety should such a natural disaster strike again.
It’s “next to useless”, she says. “And I think you’d break your neck before you got to the track. The area is still very raw.”
The beach, she explains, is littered with rubble and debris, dead trees, broken-down cars and parts of houses wrecked by the tsunami. Neither has vegetation regrown yet, she adds. “It’s a bit frustrating.”
Although she concedes the local islanders have done as much as they can — given the environment and the devastation still evident — Diane believes the escape track the Samoan Government has had bulldozed to restore people’s confidence is barely adequate, with nothing but an air-horn “like we use here in surfing comps” attached to a building as a warning alert.
But there are glimmers of hope, she adds. In a report prepared by Brent since the couple’s return a plan to build a “safe, visible and effective escape path” has been suggested as an excellent project for the post-tsunami trust — set up in Raglan soon after the tragedy — to take on.
“Not only would it (the path) have the potential to save lives,” says Brent in his report, “but it would also help promote economic development by way of tourism through giving tourists more confidence to stay at Lalomanu, knowing it was safe and well prepared for another natural disaster.”
Brent believes the path and access steps could be lit with solar lighting, just as DOC tracks in New Zealand are. A feasibility study and discussion of the proposal with local village leaders to get their support and assistance would be the next step, he says.
Supporting Lalomanu School would also be a worthwhile project for trust funds, says Brent. Although the school, which is on higher ground than the coastal fales, was not damaged by the tsunami it’s the social and human implications that show, he says.
Many of the village children who were killed in the tsunami had attended the school, he adds.
His report suggests that removal of rubbish may also be a project the trust could consider.
Meanwhile two other trustees — Andy White and Raglan ward councillor and Waikato deputy mayor Clint Baddeley — will soon travel to Lalomanu to see for themselves just how trust funds, now close to $70,000, can best be used to help the stricken villagers move forward.
Andy foresees that sorting land ownership and getting Government consent could mean there will be “a lot of red tape to go through”. While admitting it’s a worthy cause, there’s “nothing set in concrete” yet, he says.
Cr Baddeley agrees that the trip will be a good opportunity to explore options and to see where to from here for the trust. The funds need to be “well spent” on sustainable projects, he says, to benefit the small community.
Edith Symes

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.