ALI Ramo, 32, has lived at Koa Hill riverside settlement all his life.
His family was one of the firsts to settle there.
Mr Ramo recalled when he was just a kid, only a handful of families lived at Koa Hill. After some years, more people moved in and have asked his father if they could settle there.
“I remember my father told these people not to live close to the river because it is risky during flooding,” Mr Ramo said.
The flooding on April 3 reminded Mr Ramo of his father’s warning.
He said he could not believe what happened.
“The flood came like roaring wave. I have never seen such a flood before in my entire life. Although there were flooding in the past, the water level only rise to a certain level and goes down. But this recent flood was absolutely incredible,” Mr Ramo said.
He told the Solomon Star when the flood came, he and some boys rescued quite a number of people from their homes to safety.
They saved children, women, girls and old men who were trapped in their homes when the flood came running like an angry monster sweeping buildings, trees and anything on its path.
Mr Ramo said he was sad not to save the last family, which he nearly lost his life trying to save them.
He said he tried to safe two children and a woman but could not because of the very strong force of the water and the debris it carries.
“Although I managed to swim to the house they were in I could not bring them to safety,” Mr Ramo said.
This is Mr Ramo’s story of this life threatening experience.
“I told the woman to hold to the other child and wait while I tried to swim with the other kid to safety and come back for them.
“As I swam away with the other child, the water was too strong so I decided we take a rest on a coconut palm and wait.
“But not long after I saw the woman, the wife of a police officer, and the other child already washed down with the flood floating on plywood.
“I could only watch helplessly because what can I do? Although I felt sorry that I could not save them.
“While I was holding on to the child on the coconut palm, a house came and hit the palm tree down.
“At that point in time we fell onto the water and I have a dislocated left shoulder. So I held on tight to the little child trying all I could to save him.
“I manage to put him on my shoulder as we were taken down by the flood.
“When we came to the bend at the hill, the water pulled me down without realising anything at all.
“Only to realise I came back up to the surface on the other side of the old Matanikau bridge (1st bridge).
“That is when I realise I lost the child and don’t know where he is.
“So I jumped onto a log and floated down. As I looked down I saw a woman who hit her head under the next bridge and I knew she must have died.
“So I let go of the log and decide to dive down and came up on the other side of the bridge and washed down to sea.
“But the pile of debris at the river mouth was unbelievable and I thought to myself I will die from this pile of debris.
“I was left unconscious after being smashed by unkind waves causing me to lose my consciousness under the water.
“I don’t know what happened to me. But I later feel my legs touching the sand. There my sense came back and I thought, ‘I am still alive’ so I pushed myself up to the surface of the water.
“But the pile of debris makes it even difficult to go up to the surface. So I just pushed the debris out to take some good breath and went under water again.
“This time I came back up and struggled my way up to the surface from the pile of thick debris and crawled on all the logs.
“I managed to hold on to one and taken out to sea by the current.
“The current took me up to the Supreme Casino area and then out back to where the fishing boats were.
The current then took me down west only to realise I saw coconut cafe was in front of me so I assume I must be around the Rove area.
“It then took me on to the Point Cruz area where I met another girl shouting and struggling to swim.
“I told the young girl not to cry and to try and swim but to hold on to the log and just stay afloat.
“At the wharf area we saw a child floating on a bamboo. But what surprise me was the child was just smiling at me.
“So I turn the bamboo towards the sea to avoid him being smashed by the waves against the cement walls at the wharf.
“Again the current took us back to where the fishing boats were.
“But I saw an orange boat came and picked the little boy. He must be between 8-11 years of age.
“I told the girl not to cry because we will be landing on the shore soon. So the girl listened to my advice.
“The current then took us back to the Mamanawata sea front and then to the market area and back towards the United Church seafront.
“From there three waves smashed us and threw us up onto shore. Both of us nearly lost our lives there.
“I was surprised because I think God saved my life. From there people called the ambulance and rescue team came and took us to Hospital.”
Mr Ramo said during his time at sea, he can hear lots of voices of women crying and shouting for help.
But he can’t do anything because of all the debris, the rough sea and current that made the situation unimaginable.
He estimated there are more than 20 other people floating but believed most have died because they were hit by the debris and other floating objects.
“I saw a man from Gilbert and a girl hanged on to a log. I don’t know if they are alive,” Mr Ramo recalled.
He thanked God for saving his life.
He said if it was for another person, he or she would have died already.
“I think the decisions and judgments I made have saved me not to die and I thank God for that.”
His message to the people is not to go back and live by the river.
He said it is not safe anymore and people should look for somewhere safe to settle.
Mr Ramo added the people were lucky that the flash flood came during the day. He said if it happened at night, more people will die.
The body of the mother and the child he tried to save were recovered.
But the body of another child is yet to be found.
By DANIEL NAMOSUAIA