When the Broadcasting Corporation of Niue News team covered the opening of the Niue joint Emergency Operations Centre in October 2019, it was never envisaged that we would be taken in as the first displaced group of people after an emergency situation.
Senior journalist Esther Pavihi recalls the day with this piece.
“On Tuesday 19th May 2020, a day to be remembered by all the staff of BCN, we stood under a coconut tree meters from the burned studios watching as several firefighters in full gear with oxygen tanks did their thing and every so often reminded us to move back and stand away from our work place.
We stood by helpless watching as the top news story of the day unfold before us. The two reporters cancelling interviews and zoom sessions earlier scheduled for that morning and afternoon. “
A few emotional messages were left for former staff members telling them what had happened.
The General Manager Trevor Tiakia surrounded by staff and a Board Member observing the goings on.
“The BCN news team stand by idly observing where we would normally be reporting and our camera crew right filming but the cameras are in the news room probably melted but definitely damaged. I approached my old classmate Colin Harding the lead firefighter and asked if the computers are okay. He looked at me and said, there’s too much damage.
I said to one of our cameraman Tifaga Tupuiliu that we needed coffee. We drove to Crazy Uga and ordered flats whites and black coffees and brownies. I haven’t had a coffee in over a year so I had a flat white, if there’s a day to break my own rules, today definitely qualifies. “
The Chief of Police Timothy Wilson and the National Disaster Management Officer Manager Robin Hekau already at the scene joined our group as the firefighters walked out to get some fresh air and another group in.
The Chief spoke with the General Manager offering space at the newly built joint Emergency operations centre about 150 meters away and so we moved. Away from the smell of toxic fumes. Away from what was the first emergency response centre built in the mid to late 90s by local contractor Henry Eveni.
The Chief showed me and my colleague Sofaia Koroitanoa the spare room, the leather office chair, still covered in plastic, the file cabinet in the corner still empty. The whole building smelled new, a welcoming reprieve from the toxic smells emanating out of our fire destroyed studios.
There’s a white board so we can start populating with our next stories but for now, we need to take some time to process what just happened. The phone rings in Robin’s office, he calls me over, it’s the team from Pacific Media Network in Auckland. I started to talk like a reporter would and then my voice broke and the reality of the loss enveloped me I needed to sit down.
The next call was from a reporter which will be the normal for the next day or so as our media colleagues from abroad wanting to know that we’re okay.
Two days later, the white board is filled with news stories about the General Elections. Emails are sent out to the diplomats and former politicians. Calls are made to the electoral candidates and Messenger is working overtime with news sources and families and friends asking how we are.
As I write this today Thursday May 21st, the rain is belting down outside and someone is cooking something nice for lunch.
“Here we are the first lot of displaced group of reporters, technicians, camera crew and administrators of the national broadcaster BCN being accommodated very well at the Joint Emergency Operations Centre.
It’s time for lunch, Robin Hekau is cooking something hearty and we feel at home, at least until we can move back to our makeshift studios. We have a general elections to cover. “