Plan To Move Into Rebuilding Destroyed Houses Being Considered
GIZO, Solomon Islands, 13th September 2007: More than half of the 117 home repairs in Gizo island, Western Province, on tsunami-affected Solomon Islands have been completed. Sixty-five houses in the villages of Saeraghi, Fishing Village, Nusa Baruku and Babanga have been repaired under a partnership between Habitat and the Roman Catholic diocese.
Repairs on Gizo, a popular tourist destination which suffered the worst damage, are scheduled to be extended to New Mandra village soon. It is estimated that the home repairs will be completed in a month or so.
HFH Australia, which is coordinating Habitat’s response, is currently considering options for moving into the second phase of disaster response that would involve rebuilding houses that were totally destroyed. On 2nd April 2007, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit Western and Choiseul provinces in the Solomon Islands, triggering a tsunami that led to more than 50 people dead and left several thousands homeless.
In Saeraghi village, Gizo island, the Gauozo and the Pule families are among those looking forward to a new life in their repaired homes. Thirty-nine-year-old Francis Gauozo and his wife Margret live with their five young children in a two-bedroom house made of sago palm leaves and timber.
Like most houses on Solomon Islands, their house was raised on timber foundation posts to alleviate flooding. Located about 130-150 meters from the sea, the Gauozos’ house was tilted some 30 degrees by the impact of the tsunami waves.
Typical of the repairs done, the Gauozos’ house was pulled and lifted to its normal upright position. The main structure of the house was then strengthened with cross-bracing inserted between the posts. Once the structure was secure, a 10 cm. layer of reef stones was placed in a dug-out area around each foundation post.
The disaster also affected people’s way of life. Destroyed boats deprived the villagers of their primary mode of transport via sea and their means of livelihood in fishing. Schools were washed away or badly damaged, leaving thousands of children without education. Damaged wooden bridges had to be repaired and strengthened with timber and stone. While water supply through communal water pipes is deemed adequate in Saeraghi, non-governmental organizations such as Oxfam Australia are working with local authorities to restore water facilities in other parts of Gizo.
Nevertheless, Gauozo appreciates the assistance that he received from Habitat and the Roman Catholic diocese. On his own, it would not be easy to repair his home given labor and cost constraints. Now he can concentrate on earning a living. His family grows some crops for food, and sells vegetables and fish in the village or town.
Forty-four-year-old village chief Newton Pule is also thankful to have his two-bedroom home repaired. Together with his wife Salome and six children, ranging from three to 20 years old, he had been living in a tent in a temporary camp set up by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other non-governmental organizations.
The Pules’ house is located about 50-80 meters from the sea and repairs involved re-aligning the timber foundation posts and bracing the posts. Similar to the Gauozos, Pule and his oldest son helped to repair their house as well as others’ in the village.
Other than skilled labor provided by Habitat, the diocese also sent a group of novices to lend a hand in the repairs. Some of the seven volunteers helped to collect reef stones from the shore in empty rice sacks which were then delivered by boat to the houses being repaired. Other volunteers helped to brace posts and strengthen foundation posts.
The volunteers, who were new to Habitat’s work, welcomed the opportunity to work among the villagers and learnt from the process.
Their efforts are appreciated by Newton Pule who said the repaired house “will make life more comfortable than life out in the tent. I hope I will start slowly again from here”.