By chief foreign correspondent Philip Williams
A week ago the villagers of Namacu on Koro island were tending their gardens, fishing, and relaxing in a beautiful coastal hamlet of around 250 people.
They could not know that by Sunday morning their lives would be utterly, violently, changed.
Everyone knew Tropical Cyclone Winston was going to be bad. People had prepared for high winds, but not gusts of 330 kilometres an hour.
After five hours of constant battering, the howling winds have torn their little community apart. Not a single house was unscathed. Most lost everything: their roofs, their belongings, and in many cases, their entire home.
The town hall was marked only by a cement floor. The Church was blown to eternity. Incredibly, there was not a single serious injury or death. Many of the other 13 villages on Koro were not so lucky.
The dead included babies and grandmothers.
There were remarkable stories of survival. Rusinate Baliekasavo and his wife and child were sheltering in their house when the roof disappeared.
They ran next door to his father's house which then in turn was blasted down to the foundations. The only option was the tin kitchen next door.
They jammed the kitchen table against the door and prayed. Eventually the wind stopped, but not the danger. Three huge waves crashed into the village, forcing everyone to flee into the hills behind the hamlet.
His wife, Aditukawa Baliekasavo, says while she was terrified during the storm she is grateful to God for sparing all the locals, despite the full fury for those chaotic hours.
The oldest man in the village told me in all his 79 years he had never experienced such a storm. His house too lost its roof. He survived by climbing under the house and clinging to the foundations.
The vegetable gardens are all ruined, the fish have disappeared. A life of subsistence farming is now impossible. On Wednesday, the first food aid arrived via a Government supply boat, just in time as most peoples' meagre supplies were about to run out.
The rice, lentils and canned fish are extremely welcome, but people here worry about the longer term. With no food from their gardens, which also supplied cash crops, they will be depending on handouts for months to come.
And there is no certainly the Government has the ability to supply everyone in need for as long as required.
We will all have to work together, a young man tells me. Sunia Tuwai says everyone will have to look out for the children and the elderly making sure all their needs are met.
Village life means sharing responsibility, making sure everyone benefits from communal life. But the challenges are daunting. Every house gone, no public buildings left standing.
The only structure left unscathed is the war memorial with the names of soldiers from the village killed in war etched in stone.
Now the people of Namacu face battles of their own, rebuilding not just the houses, but trusting this once idyllic village will not suffer the terror of unimaginable forces again.
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- © ABC