Uncertain times for islanders


ON Monday , it will be a month since the eruption of the Kadovar volcano.
Not only have the people been displaced, they have lost their land on which they make gardens.
Their young don’t know how old they will be when they are able to return to their island.
Anna Peter, a widow, is among other islanders who were evacuated the next morning after Kadovar emitted smoke and ash.
Most islanders left their homes early next morning and fled to the neighbouring island for safety.
Almost everyone left in haste with little their hands could carry. They were taken in boatloads.
Some used canoes to paddle across to Ruprup.
From there, they could see smoke rising from the Kadovar volcano. They couldn’t leave right away.
They decided to wait till morning to find their way around the island, down to a bay and onto dinghies.
As Peter recalls, five dinghies were used to evacuate them. Three of which have engines.
People had to paddle on the other two dinghies to bring everyone to safety on Ruprup.
While on Ruprup, they could see smoke coming from the volcano.
Fortunately, they were rescued and no one was hurt.
Peter had moved back to the island from Wewak years back after her husband passed away.
To her, losing her home on the island was worse.
Peter was a little shy at first when I found her on Ruprup and asked her to tell her story about the eruption.
She sat quietly under a tree. After a while she stood up, tied her faded laplap around her thin waist and said: “Mipela sanap long ailan apsait, lukluk go apsait na wok long karai (We looked across from Ruprup and wept for our island, Kadovar).”
The volcano, thought to be sleeping, woke up on Jan 5.
This is after almost three decades.
Thick dust, clouds and smoke had carpeted the island.
Neighbouring islands were also showered with ash.
The 691 people who called the island home for many years were forced to evacuate with the help of their local councillors.
Fredlyn Wesley, a young mother of three, felt the earthquake on that night.
It was nightfall, she couldn’t do much.
She, like others, had to wait till the first light to start moving.
Despite the continuous rumbling from the volcano, her children were fast asleep.
Wesley seemed more concerned about her children’s welfare and future.
She stared deeply into her three-monthold Benice’s face as she fumbled for the right words to say.
Her eyes reddish eyes must have been the result of worrying.
Wesley knows she won’t take her family back to Kadovar Island for many years.
Her three young children will grow up on the mainland (Wewak).
“We know our island is volcanic. We cannot go back to the island. We lost our land to make gardens. Island is no use to us now,” Wesley says.
Councillor Stanley Muren knew he couldn’t leave any of his people behind.
Covered in dust and extreme heat, he still searched for the people.
He had to return to the island even after the volcano erupted that day to make sure no one was left behind.
All 691 Kadovar islanders were moved to safety and more than half (533 people) are residing at the care centre at Dandan in the Turubu area. Others are still accommodated on Ruprup until such time they are relocated to the care centre.
Kadovar is part of the Schouten Islands about 25km north of the mouth of the Sepik River.
The island was first sighted by Spanish navigator Yñigo Ortiz de Retez on July 21, 1545, when on board the carrack San Juan trying to return from Tidore to New Spain.

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