Hanuabada Village is like a huge house with endless number of bedrooms. One particular incidient in one bedroom, those in adjacent bedrooms will easily know what’s happening. But then again, the closeness of each bedroom is what makes Hanuabada one big family through good and bad times. And in the case of the latter, such incidents like the one ocurred on that Black Saturday of 19 August 2017, the sadness is felt not just by those in the bedrooms affected but by everyone in the big “house”.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that kids were allegedly playing around with matches under one of the houses. And in a matter of minutes, the fire simply got out of hand creating an inferno that literally ran amok damaging close to 20 surrounding houses.
The fire was so devastating it was simply unstoppable. The gutsy wind only added to the destruction moving the fire to nearby clans, particularly the first four houses in the row, and causing even more damage.
Just when you thought a village so close to the country’s capital city that it should have no water issues, the water was turned off on this fateful afternoon.
The fire service upon arrival found out too that they could do very little without running water and hurriedly made arrangements to have access to water to prevent the blazing flames from spreading any further. By now, residents in nearby clans expecting to be next caught up in the flames, quickly removed any belonging they could before being victims this vicious flames.
One elderly lady in such shock at the protruding fire jumped off from the jetty right into muddy waters and cutting her feet. These were unbelievable scenes usually seen in a drama movie on HBO. Such was the nature of the situation, it was simply a case of fire or your life.
A prayer or two by many of those standing shell-shocked at what was before their very eyes maybe did enough to convince God that enough was enough. By then, those houses who were the victim of these tragic incident were beyond repair and their inhabitants with tears and disbelief.
This is possible the biggest fire in the history of the big village. The last major fire to burn a number of houses was probably during World War I and the Australian army rebuilt the houses using corrugated iron.
The material and emotional loss is tremendous. But there is another loss from a cultural perspective too that’s likely to affect the victims moving forward.
In the Motuan society, the “irutauna” is an integral part of the house. It is the very centre of the household that brings everyone together whether it be for having a meal, a family feast or family meetings. This central point can be considered as sacred in the Motuan society as the positive mood of the “irutauna” can bring good luck. Likewise, a family quarrel in the irutauna can bring the family bad luck.
As a sporting community, Hanuabadans often dedicate their success to having a good irutauna and the number of successful athletes in various sports the big village has contributed to the country is testament to the positive “irutauna’s” they have.
Take away the “irutauna” and you take away the lifeblood of the household. And for those who lost their houses, they just didn’t lose their house and personal items – they lost their “irutauna”.
So where to from here?
For a start, the immediate families need to be housed and given the communal way of living for many Motuan villages, this will not be a problem.
The building of their houses is the biggest obstacle they have and considering the increasing prices of goods and services, it is indeed a huge task. But hopefully and expected, Hanuabadans will come together and rise from the ashes.
This tragedy also sounds out a warning to local and city authorities to take a closer look at the village from a physical planning, health and safety perspective.
As it showed yesterday, Hanuabadans from all corners of the village gathered at the central point to not only witness this unfortunate incident but lend a hand and help out. There was little they could do but their presence in the village “irutauna” clearly showed that will work their way through this adversity and build a better Hanuabada.
And make no mistake, the “irutauna” of Hanuabada Village as a huge house with many bedrooms have come together in one central place to rebuild not only the houses they’ve lost but the “irutauna” as well.
A disaster relief fund has been set up and we will post details here.