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Simply The Best

Simply The Best
Fiji Sun senior journalist Arieta Vakasukawaqa. Photo:Roneel Karthik
December 31
11:38 2016

What do you do when you’re trapped in the Naitasiri Highlands by floodwaters cutting roads and bridges?

If you’re senior Fiji Sun journalist Arieta Vakasukawaqa you get the story and photos. Then you make sure they get through to the newsroom back in Suva and into the newspaper. Then you keep working.

Ms Vakasukawaqa did just that in the aftermath of Tropical Depression 04F. And much more.

Her efforts were acknowledged with a special award during our Fiji Sun thanksgiving lunch.

Fiji Sun Managing Editor News Jyoti Pratibha said in her nomination for Ms Vakasukawaqa’s award: “We received a news tip that a woman had given birth in the midst of flooding in Naitasiri. Arieta volunteered to go and cover the story of the woman and her newborn. The plan was for her to cover and return to office.

“But, all did not go according to plan. The vehicle carrying her could not get through because of flooding.

“But after Arieta crossed the already flooded Wainimala River by boat, water levels rose dangerously and everyone operating boats was cleared off by Police officers.

“This left Arieta stranded with only a camera and her phone.

“It left us worried in the newsroom, not knowing where she was. She got in touch with me at around 7pm to tell me she had made some friends in the village and was going to spend the night at their place. First thing she did was to send stories and pictures from Lomaivuna where she spent the first night.

“Next morning, she embarked on the journey to find the mother-daughter duo again. She attempted to cross the Vunidawa Bridge which was flooded and, thankfully, decided against it. She hitched a ride back to Lomaivuna where she interviewed farmers and filed stories.

“She spent the second night in Lomaivuna.

“Next morning, she hitched a ride with the Ministry of Agriculture officials into Vunidawa. Upon reaching the nursing station, the nurses refused to give her any details of the mother and her child.

“Arieta informed the nurses that she had been staying in the village for two nights to get that mother and her child and she was not going to leave without getting any information about them.

“She finally managed to find out the village of the mother and rushed to cross the broken Vunidawa Bridge in her sulu jaba.

“After jumping across the broken bridge and doing everything short of swimming across, Arieta found the mother at Naluwai Village. There after two nights of searching, she interviewed and photographed the mother with her daughter.

“Mission accomplished? Not quite.

“By now, water in Naqali had receded and we sent a vehicle to pick her. While waiting for pick up, she spotted a Government vehicle which she knew must be one of the Government Ministers.

“With camera in her hand, she ran behind the twincab, hoping to stop and interview whichever Minister was there. It was the Agriculture and National Disaster Management Minister Inia Seruiratu out surveying agriculture damage.

“Making the most of this chance meeting, Arieta did what any good journalist should do. Interviewed and photographed the minister.

“So she got the mother-daughter story and photo. She photographed and reported on the damaged Vunidawa bridge. She told the plight of the farmers. Then she got the minister.

“Arieta made the most of the situation, despite being stranded in the highlands of Naitasiri, not worrying about her meals or where she would sleep.

“She made everyone in our newsroom very, very proud.”

Arieta Vakasukawaqa? Typical of our Fiji Sun journalists.

They’re Simply the Best.

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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