Raiole Remembers Missing Friend’s Last Words

There was still no trace of Peni Waqabaca, who is alleged to have been swept away by strong currents at the river in Nawajijuma, Nawaka last Saturday. Last night Police
05 Feb 2018 11:03
Raiole Remembers Missing Friend’s Last Words
From left: Kolinio Koroi and Gabriele Raiole at their home in Qina Settlement, Nawaka, Nadi are showing a picture of missing victim Peni Waqabaca on February 3, 2018. Photo: Waisea Nasokia

There was still no trace of Peni Waqabaca, who is alleged to have been swept away by strong currents at the river in Nawajijuma, Nawaka last Saturday.

Last night Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro said: “Police and friends are still searching, but the outcome remains negative”.

The 23-year-old Matuku, Lau native had lived with his friend, Gabriele Raiole and his wife for the past month in Nadi.

Mr Raiole said they shared a one room flat and their days were always filled with jokes and laughter.

Mr Raiole and Waqabaca’s friendship began last year when they worked together for a concrete and furnishing company in Nadi.

“We had developed a good relationship. A few weeks ago, I returned home with my wife from the river and we saw him sitting on the steps. He asked if we could stay together, but the reason remained unknown,” said Mr Raiole, 30, originally from Lomaloma, Seaqaqa in Macuata.

“Memory of his humble character has left us in tears because he used to make us laugh and he hardly gets angry.

“In our last conversation on our way to the river, he said that tomorrow (Sunday) all of us have to go to church because he has some confession to make. Now I still wonder and long to hear it. I am helpless, but I hope to see him soon.”

Mr Raiole recounted that water cuts experienced in Nadi had led to their swimming expedition in the river. The mishap occurred at about 4pm.

“When we reached the river I saw the water level was high. We assisted those who were trying to remove logs from the river for firewood.

“I told him (Peni) and my wife not to swim in the river, because the current was strong.”

Mr Raiole managed to swim safely to the river bank, but could not locate Mr Waqabaca, who was in the river.

“When I glanced behind, I saw him struggling and being swept away. There were some logs, but he was not able to hold on to them so I ran in front with the hope to assist him if I could see him, but this was not to be.”

He alerted Police yesterday morning and joined Police officers in search for the victim in the river from Nawaka to the river mouth in Sonaisali.

Police have issued a stern warning to those who use the river during the water cut period in Nadi and Lautoka to take precautionary measures.

Ms Naisoro said: “With a heavy rain and flood warning still in place, members of the public must take all the necessary safety precautions and refrain from swimming in rivers and flooded areas.

“The necessary warnings and advisories have been issued by authorities for everyone’s safety so it is imperative for people to listen to avoid loss of life.”

Meanwhile, certain areas in Nadi now have tap water running, the Water Authority of Fiji confirmed last night.

“Water has been restored to some parts of the Nadi areas, especially the line to Denarau, Nadi Hospital and certain parts of the Central Business District,” the Water Authority of Fiji’s statement said.

“Everything is expected to be normal by Tuesday. The carting team are still on standby if there is need for more distribution.”

Ms Naisoro also confirmed yesterday that no one had been charged for the alleged theft and damage to water tanks set up in various stations, but investigations were ongoing.

Edited by Percy Kean


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