Francis survives flood, but loses friend Paul, five school mates
By JAMES GUMUNO
TWELVE-year-old Francis Bun is thanking his lucky starts to be alive to tell his story of how she survived the flood which killed five of his school mates last week.
One of them, whose body was found later downstream, had yelled to him to hold on fast to whatever he could grab on the river bank. He did – and managed to withstand the strong current for a while, as his mate was swept away.
Francis and mate Paul Wane were fishing using nets along the river when the water level started to rise quickly. They were stunned because it had never happened there before.
“We tried to flee up to a kaukau garden, then to higher ground when the flood kept on rising and covered the garden too.”
Wane and four other school mates died, plus an old man who was inside his home when the flood swept it away.
Francis is the eldest in a family of five brothers from the Munjika-Rapengil tribe. He will be in Grade Five this year at the Kwip Primary School in the Mul-Baiyer electorate. He cannot go to school yet because the bridges were also washed away.
“Paul told me to hold on to whatever I can grab hold of, to hold on strongly.”
It was the last time he heard his friend’s voice. He watched as Paul was swept away by the flood.
Francis too eventually lost grip of the reeds he was holding on to, and was carried away by the strong current. He managed to keep his head above water for some time.
As he was carried downstream, the voice of Pastor Daniel Mong from the Reform Lutheran Church who had preached at Rau village the day before came back to him. Mong’s sermon focused on the children in the village who were returning to school for the 2020 academic year.
Francis remembered what the preacher told them about the many ways people could lose their lives.
“The pastor said one could die in a car accident or drown in a river. I thought then that the Lord would take my life away like what the pastor said.”
The last thing Francis remembered was hitting his head on some objects like rocks as he floated downstream.
The next time he became aware of his surroundings was when villagers were pulling him out from under the debris after the flood. A boy from the village had found him lying under the debris in a kaukau garden.
Francis did not know how he ended up there because he could not remember anything else after hitting his head on the rock.
“I thank God that he did not take my life away and saved me.”
Ward councilor Samuel Duini and fellow villagers also could not believe how Francis was still alive when they found him under the debris more than a kilometer downstream.
“ I thank God that he did not take my life away and saved me.”
The villagers are still trying to work how the river level rose so fast as the rain was not quite that heavy.
“We think it was caused by some supernatural powers because in the past, we never saw such big flooding.”
The footbridge which the people contributed K15,000 towards in 2011 and built across the Gumanch river is gone too.
The villagers held a mass funeral service for the six relatives they lost to the flood last weekend.
Duini believes it will take a long time to forget the disaster.
Francis himself wants to move on although he keeps thinking of his five school mates who lost their lives in the freak flood, especially Paul.
“As for my friend Paul, I am sorry that he lost his life.”