Ten year-old Patrick Beni was home that fatal Wednesday morning. Like other children of his age, he did not go to school due to the inclement weather, with non-stop rain almost all weekend. His mother was asleep in her bedroom of the rented home on the foothills of the Koa Hill settlement, inhabited by largely Malaitan workers. For her mother, it was a perfect weather to snuggle way under a warm blanket while the kids were left to their own devices.
Being the eldest, Patrick was up to his duties. As he peered out the window he could see the Mataniko River had burst its banks and floodwaters were beginning to rise faster than he had previously witnessed in a series of floodings over the previous 12 months. He went to his mother’s bedroom and raised the alarm “I rushed in to wake Mum who was sleeping in her room and told her we must escape because the floods are coming. But Mum responded the water won’t reach our house. I insisted she get up to see for herself,” young Patrick told a local newspaper.
By then it was far too late. Their house was surrounded by fast flowing currents. The first victim was his younger brother named Junior. He was crushed to death by a falling sago palm tree adjacent to the house. His mother grabbed Patrick’s 18-month-old sister Salome and caught hold of one of the sago palm trees as it swept past their house, which quickly followed. Patrick and his other brother, Francis, 7, held on to the second sago palm tree. “When we came to the old Mataniko Bridge, I told my brother Francis to keep close to me as we squeezed our way through the debris blocking the bridge. We managed to get through under the bridge and on the other side,” he said. At that point he had lost sight of his mother and baby Salome.
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