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The day the gods took over

There was nothing unusual about the heavy rain that began to pound Honiara on Wednesday April 2. Other parts of the country had been pelted by the heavy rain, causing flash flooding as well as extensive damage to roads, bridges and food gardens. In Honiara, Police Sergeant William Foufaka was at work at Rove, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force’s (RSIPF) headquarters in West Honiara. He had a house on the east bank of the Mataniko River.

By 11:30 that morning, his pregnant wife started calling him to report that the river had been rising. She feared the Mataniko River could burst its banks and there was no way she could save herself, their child and other extended family members. “I just keep switching off the phone, because we were in an important police meeting,” the Sergeant said later.

As the rain intensified, Sergeant Foufaka decided to call his wife “to check just in case the river had flooded.” By the time he had managed to reach her, floodwaters were lapping on the wooden floor of the semi-permanent building. “If you aren’t here soon, we’ll all be washed away. The river is rising dangerously fast and you may not see us,” was all his wife said to him before the phone went dead. “I raced out into the rain, got into a police vehicle and with siren blaring and emergency lights flashing, I was on my way,” Sergeant Foufaka said later. What he didn’t realise at that time was that his house had been cut off and floodwaters had isolated his entire family from any way of escape. As they stopped on the main road, he could see that he had minutes to save his family – his pregnant wife, their child and his mother.

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