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Sarah Jane Weaver
Seruwaia Bari Tanumi lost her home when Tropical Cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji on Saturday, Feb. 20.

LAMI TOWN, FIJI

Standing in the remnants of what was once her home just days after Cyclone Winston made landfall here, Seruwaia Bari Tanumi spoke of her loss.

“Some of my plates are gone,” she said. “All of my cups are gone. All of my clothes are wet.”

She pulled a large plastic tarp off a bookshelf in the corner of what used to be her bedroom. The water-soaked books were ruined. Many of the family’s limited belongings were strewn down the hillside.

But Sister Tanumi insisted she is lucky.

As Cyclone Winston approached Fiji, the mother took her large family and spent the night at an LDS meetinghouse.

The next morning she returned to her house to discover everything was gone. Then, on the foundation of what was once her home, she “knelt down and prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Thank you for the life you gave to me.’ Everyone in my family was safe.”

Sister Tanumi, Lami 1st Ward, Suva Fiji North Stake, stayed at the meetinghouse for a week.

The Church has been providing food and clean water for the family through the Church's fast offering program, said Vesau Tamanivula, a counselor in the bishopric.

“We can’t leave them,” he said. “We have to take care of them.”

Meroni Naivila Ross lives just down the hill from Sister Tanumi and her family. She was home with her husband, Barney Ross, and their 3-year-old daughter, Veniana Leba, when the storm struck.

“It was very, very muddy and the rain was coming,” she said. When strong winds took her roof, she and her family ran to a neighbor’s home.

As the sun rose in the morning, the family walked to the LDS meetinghouse.

“The bishop was here,” she recalled. “We dried our clothes.”

During the storm, the Rosses moved their mattress and clothes to a back room in their home. As the storm intensified, water ran into the home through that room — destroying everything they owned.

Three days after the storm, Sister Ross was working to salvage what she could from her home. Little Veniana played outside. The sound of hammers hitting nails echoed through the small community.

It seemed everyone here was beginning to rebuild.

“We can put things back,” said Sister Tanumi.

sarah@deseretnews.com @SJW_ChurchNews

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