By Paul Dobbyn
FLOOD disaster victims in the Solomon Islands sheltering at the Salesian order’s Don Bosco Technical Institute in Honiara have been heartened by a visit from representatives of the Australian Government.
“I understand your pain and I am with those who have lost family members, relatives and friends,” Queensland Senator Brett Mason told the 240 people sheltering at the institute gymnasium since April 8.
Australian High Commissioner Andrew Byrne, head of DFAT-Australian AID in the Solomon Islands Sue Connell and others accompanied the senator on his visit.
Honiara-based Salesian Father Ambrose Pereira said the Australian group had distributed blankets and much-needed survival kits with household items for each of the families.
He said the party’s visit had lifted the spirits of those sheltering at the institute.
“In simple traditional style the group welcomed the guests with a garland,” he said.
“Nervous and afraid a few women sang ‘We come together’.
“Then a spokesman Francis Garimana spoke on behalf of the entire group.
“He thanked the Australian Government for the help rendered during the recent floods and requested support to rebuild their homes.
“He expressed his gratitude to Don Bosco for the venue in which they are staying.”
Heavy rain from two cyclones which hit the Solomon Islands in March and early April led to severe flash flooding in the capital and heavy flooding in rural areas of Guadalcanal and in Malaita islands, with up to 50,000 people displaced from their homes.
The Government declared a state of emergency after the Matanikau River in Honiara burst its banks, sweeping away people and houses, and bringing down bridges.
Caritas Australia, in collaboration with local Church partners, has set up two evacuation shelters in the main city of Honiara.
Caritas Australia’s Solomon Islands representative on the ground, Adam Elliott, said water, food, sanitation and hygiene were being provided for 82 families displaced by the floods.