April 13, 2018

Flash Floods Destroy Adventist Village in Vanuatu

Flash floods have devastated a Seventh-day Adventist community at Waluebue village, North Ambae, Vanuatu. Early Sabbath morning, March 31, 2018, the village was inundated with water, rocks and soil, destroying people’s homes, the Adventist church, the community hall, and the school.

Vanuatu Mission secretary Charlie Jimmy said many people lost everything except the clothes they were wearing as they ran to escape to higher ground.

“It is heartbreaking to see the entire village covered in big rocks and soil from 5 to 10 meters high,” he said.

One hundred and fifteen people lived in the village. They are now homeless and temporarily accommodated at nearby Waluriki, another Adventist village.

Jimmy travelled to the area soon after the disaster with Vanuatu Mission media cameraman Jean Pierre Niptik to take photos and footage of the village. “It’s sad,” he reported. “They lost their homes. While [we were] filming the flood came again. We had to run. It’s just frightening.”

Recent floodings are due in part to a recent eruption of the Ambae volcano, which left large deposits of ash on the island.

Waluebue village had been planning a visitors’ Sabbath on March 31 and had prepared a lot of food and accommodation. All of it, however, was covered by the flooding. “[People] are surviving through the aid and donations from nearby communities, church groups, NGOs and supplies from the government,” said Jimmy.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Vanuatu, the humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the island nation, is working closely with the government to ensure it is meeting priority needs in a coordinated manner, according to representative Anna Downing. Pre-prepared emergency packs have been delivered for the village and for those on Ambae affected by recent volcanic activity.

In partnership with ADRA New Zealand, ADRA Vanuatu has provided 458 jerry cans, 58 tarpaulins, 150 wash kits and 150 hygiene kits for those affected by both the volcanic activity and the flooding in Waluebue.

Jimmy also travelled with district pastor Max Senembe to Penama Adventist College. The school was evacuated in September 2017, due to the Ambae volcano eruption, and has had ongoing issues since. There was no student welcome for the pastors. Only college principal Gibson Mera was there to receive them. With tears in his eyes, he said, “Welcome to our school, pastor.”

The college campus is covered with volcanic ash. The 37 students and their teachers were relocated on April 3 to Ambaebulu School. They will be sharing classrooms, dorms, homes, and other things with Ambaebulu.

According to its Facebook account, members of the Portoroki church welfare society are collecting contributions of clothes, kitchenware, and other household items. Other churches in Vanuatu are expected to support the Waluebue community as well.

Vanuatu government is now negotiating with the land owners of East Ambae to purchase land and relocate this community to a new site.

“Please pray for our church members who are now homeless, as they seek for a new place to settle and rebuild their homes,” said Jimmy.