Former BSSC student and State Emergency Service volunteer Brett Walsh is in Fiji helping its residents recover from tropical cyclone Winston.
Wind gusts of up to 325km/h and waves up to 12 metres high battered the South Pacific nation two weeks ago. It is believed to be the strongest severe tropical cyclone to ever hit the Southern Hemisphere.
Brett began is work with the Australian Medical Assistance Teams as a training opportunity but soon found himself on his way to Fiji. He hadn’t seen much of the devastation left by the tropical cyclone before landing in Fiji.
“Without seeing the news, what I found hardest was talking to people and hearing the stories of people being lost,” Mr Walsh said. “When you start meeting families and sympathising with them, you also see the devastation of whole homes completely gone.
“All that is left is concrete slabs or (house) stumps. The trees striped of everything, there has been incredible the damage done. The devastation to island is almost total destruction but the Fijians are incredibly resilient and happy and grateful to see us. They are so accepting of us.”
Brett and the rest of his team have been traveling from village to village to offer medical help where they can. Typhoid and dengue fever are real concerns.
“We see, on average, about 80 people a day,” he said. “We have a doctor and a nurse from Australia and a doctor and a nurse from Fiji seeing whole villages. There are a lot of common things like respiratory infections, cuts and abscesses that need antibiotics.”
Brett has been a clinic nurse for eight years. He has volunteered with the SES for the same amount of time.
“We haven’t done so much rescue in Fiji, but in terms of coping mechanisms my SES training has been good,” he said. “I think it goes hand in hand with how I enjoy this work. I love helping people, I really enjoy the great satisfaction that comes from it.”
Brett said he has never done work like this before.
“This is my first deployment on behalf of the Australian Government but I did work with the floods we had years ago,” he said. “I have dealt with a lot of incidents locally but this is my first time abroad. I’m very proud to be offered the opportunity.”
(Thanks to Chris Pedler – Bendigo Advertiser)