Boy survives being carried out to sea

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 10:50 08/04/2014

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SURVIVOR: Isiah Andrew, 8, says thinking of his mum and dad gave him strength.

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An 8-year-old boy carried out to sea in the Solomon Islands flood disaster has given a dramatic account of his survival.

Isiah Andrew has told an aid agency how he did his best to survive being torn from his home, down a raging river and into the sea.

But three of his younger nieces and a nephew, together with their grandfather, who were also swept from the house are gone.

The Solomon's capital Honiara has been devastated by the flooding caused when the Matanikau River that divides the capital Honiara burst its banks and destroyed much of the area.

This morning the Solomon Islands National Disaster Council said the death toll had now reached 23.

There were about 9000 homeless people in 24 evacuation centres and 40,000 people have been affected by the disaster, it said.

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) today reported Isiah Andrew's remarkable survival story. 

He had come with his family from Choiseul to spend the school break with family in Honiara, two to three kilometres up the Matanikau and was sitting on a ladder when the river suddenly rose.

"I could not run anywhere because the house was now surrounded with water and there were pieces of metal and scraps all over the place crushing against each other," Isiah told UNICEF.

He remembered next holding on to a coconut tree trunk with water rising rapidly.

"I was trying my best to hold on to the coconut tree trunk but the current was so strong, pieces of metal, grass, mud, and plastics were all over me," he said.

He saw the house falling and let go of the trunk, fearing it might collapse on him.

A person nearby could see the boy but they could not reach him, and they told of seeing Isiah disappear under the water.

Isiah said he could do nothing.

"All that time, I kept thinking of my mom and dad and that's why I regained my strength."

He said he decided to swim with the current and the debris.

"I kept on saying in my mind swim, swim, swim, and don't stop," he said.

Then he came to a bridge that was level with the water.

He dived under it.

When he came up he swam towards a log and drifted out to sea.

"I looked back and I could see both ends of Honiara from White River to Lungga," Isiah said.

"I then tried as much as possible to stay alive."

After floating for several hours on the log, out at sea, a fishing boat rescued him.

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At the disaster council the director Loti Yates told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation there were concerns about the homeless in evacuation centres as they did not have a proper water supply.

"There is a very real risk of an outbreak of disease - including dysentery, malaria, dengue fever and other diseases related to poor sanitation," Yates told the ABC.

The fierce storm that battered Honiara has now turned into Cyclone Ita and is heading across the Coral Sea to the north Queensland coast, including Cairns.

* To donate visit https://www.unicef.org.nz/Solomon-Islands

- Fairfax Media

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