A big Bula from Fiji and a quick update on Cyclone Winston.

We shipped C-GCPN STOL CH750 to Fiji last year from Whitehorse Yukon, Canada with the intention to demonstrate LSA and home built technology,   training for young people and to provide assistance for humanitarian aid to remote villages. Ironically, after 18 months of building our airbase and finally getting the necessary approvals and permits, Mr. Winston decided to pay a visit one week before our first flight.

We are based in the Northern Division in a beautiful small town called Savusavu with a population of approximately 10,000.    Cyclone Winston hit on February 20 and is recorded as being one of the worst hurricanes to make landfill in recorded history.   Windspeed's in Savusavu exceeded 350 kph.

Fortunately, Winston arrived during the day and remarkably we have no deaths and few serious injuries in our area.   Country wide I believe the death toll stands at 40 and rising and 45,000 (or 5% of the population) are in shelters.      The damage is obviously widespread but the incredible Fijian spirit, kindness and warmth have come to forefront as everyone is helping clean up, provide shelter and support to those who have lost their homes and starting the rebuilding process.     I understand that international aid is on the way but to date,  not much has arrived in this area. 

Unfortunately Waqa Vuka (fijian for boat flying) was smushed at the airbase we had built at the local airport by a flying rain tree.    My loss is small compared to others but the most difficult part is that we cannot provide the desperately needed air support for the relief effort.     There are 300 islands in Fiji and  very few aircraft, especially planes which can access the small remote islands.

The pictures show the strength of the aircraft and the safety provided by the safety cage ....  that was 1000kg tree propelled by 350 kph winds that hit the plane!

We will definitely be rebuilding and are busy cleaning up and restoring the airbase so it can be used as a staging area for the relief effort.   The village I rent the land on has had half of their homes destroyed after being washed away by the 2m storm surge.   Amazingly they have insisted that we restore the airbase before starting to help in the community as they view the airplane and airbase as a sign of hope and opportunity for younger people for the future.

I am a water engineer by trade and have also had international experience in disaster relief but this is the first time I am also a survivor.     Emotions can run the gamete but the incredible support from family, friends and especially the Fijian people has allowed us to start rebuilding and be able to provide support to the community.

Any help would be gratefully appreciated.     Respectfully suggest donations be made to your local Rotary with the request that the help be forwarded to the Savusavu Fiji branch of the Rotary International.   They are an incredibly good group who have been first in distributing aid and assistance and have a long history of helping with water supplies, schools, community centres and medical centres. The best part is that little if any of the funds are used for "administration" as is the case in some of the larger aid agencies.

I am also available to assist with local logistics and support for any aid agencies or for any direct aid folks may be able to provide.    And boy oh boy would a couple of STOL CH750's be able to help out!

My email is vmenkal@mac.com if you need to contact myself for additional information if you would be able to help.   Apologies for no  pics but we have access to only very limited internet at this time and don't want to clog up bandwidth.

Vinaka vakalevu (thank you very much) to all my friends in the home building community for your incredible support and generosity to date.    It makes me even prouder to part of our community.

FIJI SOARS! (the name we were going to use for our non profit CH750 group and applies even more now)

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Bula :)

I was in Fiji with my family for a holiday two weeks ago and this season's weather had certainly left it's mark. However the Fijians are showing amazing resilience and when we were there aid was beginning to get through. It's a beautiful country and a great place to visit.

We'll be back in Fiji at the end of the year and I'll make sure to keep an eye on how you're going and hopefully visit. As far as aircraft go the 701 and 750 would be perfect for the country and it's islands so I can see your enthusiasm for them.

Good luck 

Graham

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