Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Too far away to get evacuation warnings (and too far away to be evacuated)

Its been an interesting couple of days here on Nukutoa. Yesterday the strange wave patterns that we have been noticing all week began hitting us with full effect as tides have become higher. Large sections of the island have been flooded and the shore has been eroded as waves have broken across the seawalls of the eastern shores.

This morning Scott and John held a meeting presenting their research so far to the islanders. Soon afterward everyone left to prepare fortoday's tide at 1pm. The news we had managed to glean via the radio was that low lying parts of northern PNG had been evacuated and that Manus and Kavieng had been hit hard by large waves. In Wewak water had reached the airport runway.

Here in Takuu we are too far away to get evacuation warnings (and too far away to be evacuated). People here can only guess at what must be going on. We suspect a huge storm north of here, perhaps around Guam, is generating huge ocean swells; swells with long period waves that carry them over the shallow water of the reef and still hold enough energy topenetrate the island.

As the tide rose so did the waves. Near Petasi (which is close to the edge of the reef) the water sometimes reached our knees. We had to be careful that the camera wouldn't get swept away with the rest of the debris hitting us as we filmed shots in the waves.

Over half the island has been flooded with most of the damage in the eastern parts. The school has been heavily hit with the schoolteachers house, the library and the elementary classrooms sustaining major damage. Schoolbooks are ruined, boats and water tanks float on the basketball court.

Only a few days ago the dance concert was held in the school grounds, now the grounds are a mess of coconuts and rubbish floating in the saltwater. The wavespenetrated into the middle of the island ruining houses and flowing into the wells.

All along the northern shore, houses sit without their walls, pools of water lie in the interiors upon which float the remains of household effects. Coconut trees have fallen and coral rocks have been thrown up on the land. There has been great damage to the sandy points upon which the canoes are kept. Several fishing canoes now have holes and lie tipped upon their sides.

All is calm tonight. The tide is low and the waves cannot get over the reef. Tomorrows tides are higher and on Friday to Sunday will be even higher still. We sent a press release to the NZ herald and John has talked to the Sydney Morning Herald so watch out for some articles.


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