Wind fells 500 year-old Banyan tree in Kuribi

A strong wind blew down a 500 year-old Banyan tree in Kuribi of Haadhaalu Atoll, which was believed to be among the ancient relics remaining on the island.

Island Councilor Abdul Wahid told Minivan News that the tree fell down on Friday afternoon at around 3:00pm due to a strong wind that came with the rain clouds.

”The wind was blowing faster than 70 km/h,” said Wahid. ”Many coconut palm trees and other trees in the area fell down,”

Wahid said the tree was 125 feet long and was used as a landmark for travelers, as it was visible on the horizon before even the island appeared.

”It would have a diameter of 15 feet and a spread of 200 feet,” Wahid said.

He said that nobody was injured during the incident.

”It fell and hit the outer wall of Hukuru Miskiy [Friday mosque] and damaged the wall,” he said. ”Some other trees in the area were also pulled down.”

He said that the ancient Banyan tree would be put up for auction tomorrow.

An official at the Department of Meteorology (MET) said that its bureau on Hanimaadhoo in Haa Dhaalu Atoll has recorded that Hanimaadhoo experienced strong winds blowing at almost 90 km/h on Friday afternoon.

She said that the heavy rain and strong winds was due to the southwest monsoon,  and added that no tornadoes had been recorded recently.


A solid two days of rain in Nolhivaram, also in Haa Dhaalu Atoll, has caused shin-high flooding.

Island Councilor Hussein Areef said the deluge lasted from Friday morning to 10pm last night, and had caused the water level to rise to to 1.5 feet in some areas.

Eight houses on the island had been flooded, he said, and some trees had died.

Areef said that schools were closed today due to the flood.

”Many trees on island also fell due to the rain and strong wind,” Areef said. ”We are trying to drain the water and we hope we can reopen the schools by tomorrow.”

”Now it is not raining, but the sky is overcasts and by 6:00pm it would start showering again,” he added.


Island superstition saves ‘dead’ Somalian man from being buried alive by police

A Somalian man has narrowly escaped being buried alive after he was found comatose along with with five other men drifting in a small boat near the island of Makunudhoo in in Haadhaalu Atoll.

Makunudhoo islanders who rescued the men yesterday said it appeared the men had been drifting in the tiny 12-15 foot vessel for three months with little food or water.

An island official who assisted with the rescue told Minivan News that the boat was recovered yesterday at 5:30 pm by a fishing vessel, and that the men were in very bad condition when they were brought ashore.

”Everyone was shocked and felt sympathy for them at first glimpse,” he said. “There was no food, water or medication in the boat.”

Images and a video of the incident (below) showed the men badly emaciated and apparently suffering from severe malnutrition.

Word spread quickly across the island and nearly the whole population gathered near the beach to see the boat as it brought ashore.

Five of the men were rushed to the island’s health centre but the sixth man, curled up inside the boat’s anchor locker, was left on board as police assumed he was dead.

”We informed police of the incident immediately,” the official said. “They told us to leave the dead body and to take the rest of the men to health centre. They arrived later that night at 7:30 pm – people were really upset they came so late.”

The official told Minivan News that police tried to bury the ‘dead’ man immediately but were prevented by island elders.

”Elderly people denied the body from being buried on the island because of an old legend that claims the island might become haunted if a rotten dead body was buried,” he said.

The man was left in the boat’s anchor locker until this morning.

However when the islanders came to take the man’s body to be washed prior to burial, they were surprised to see him moving.

“Police insisted the body was not alive but was moving due to the motion of the water,” the official said. “But after a while he opened his eyes and started uttering something in his language which no one understood.”

He said everyone was shocked and rushed the man to the health centre.

”People so angry with police because they confirmed the body was dead without doing a medical check-up,” the official said. ”The poor man could have lost his life being buried alive after surviving three months adrift.”

He said all six men had now been admitted to hospital and their condition was improving.

”One man can stand up now,” he said, ”but someone from the Maldives who understands Somali is yet to be found.”

Islanders who spoke with the six men have been able to ascertain that the men were adrift for three months, after losing control of the boat and their bearings.

”We are all very sad that we left one man without medication and food, assuming  he was dead,” the official said.

‘Everyone on the island quickened to help them, provide clothes and fragnances for them at the time they were brought, but left one man behind.”

He said some people had begun speculating that the men were pirates while others suggested they might have been fishermen became lost, although no weapons or fishing equipment were found on board.

”The boat was 12-15 feet long but had a 40 horse-power engine attached, which is enough to run twice as fast as a high speed gulf craft.”

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that the man’s body had been handed to police who were not required to confirm his death.

He confirmed the men were Somali and said police were now investigating the case.

”We have been unable to get some information from them because of their medical condition,” he said. ”At the moment it’s very difficult to reveal any details.”


Police arrests father and son with stolen electronic equipment

Police have arrested a father and his son with a quantity of allegedly stolen electronics in Kulhudhufushi of Haa Dhaalu

Police identified the two man as Mohamed Hussein, 54, and Adham Mohamed, 18, of Javahirumaage in Kulhudhufushi.

Police Sergeant Abdul Muhusin said the two men were arrested yesterday at 6:15pm.

Muhusin said police had discovered 34 mobile phones, two 500GB hard drives, 17 phone chargers, 4 CD players, 8 headsets, 6 phone batteries, 3 pen drives, 1 motor-bike remote, 1 knife, 1 mobile phone cover, 1 necklace with an ”Allah” logo, 1 ring, 1 calculator, 11 remotes, 1 radio, 1 speaker, 1 hand bag, 1 computer monitor and a USB cable.

Muhusin said the father had no police record, but his son had previously been arrested with ‘Dunlop’, a glue reportedly used for sniffing on some islands.

Police said the men were caught in a special operation led by Kulhudhufushi Police station.

Kulhudhufushi police station did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


A little about Alison, IVP volunteer

Alison Warnock is a 24 year old from Edinburgh, Scotland. She describes herself as “a very over-enthusiastic Scottish girl” and says she absolutely loves the Maldives.

She is starting her second year teaching at Jalaluddin School in Kulhudhuffushi Island in Haa Dhaalu Atoll, in the upper-north province, as part of the International Volunteer’s Program (IVP).

She was working at a cancer charity in Scotland when her friend Sarah, who was also a volunteer in 2009, heard about the IVP. She asked Sarah if she could come along for the interview and got the job. Alison “saw what an incredible opportunity it was and took it.”

Her friends and family were all very excited about her coming, and some of them were slightly jealous. She says “there’s a misconception that every single island will look like the resort islands, with houses on stilts in the water and long, white sandy beaches.”

Even though she knew there would be some home comforts that she would miss, she packed her bags and flew half-way around the world.

Coming to Kulhudhuffushi

Alison arrived in the Maldives in May 2009 and taught until November of the same year. She then went home for five weeks and returned to the Maldives in January 2010.

Coming from a city like Edinburgh to a small island like Kulhuduffushi would be a great challenge for many people, but Alison says she “thrives in small communities”. She attended St. Andrew’s University, a soon-to-be 600 year old university in Scotland, which has “about 3,000 people less than the island.”

“I’m quite used to the small community feel where everybody knows your name. I like knowing where everything is and who everybody is. I love being in small communities, especially when everybody is so welcoming and friendly and everything is so beautiful.”

She says the entire community has been very supportive of her.

“If my washing machine isn’t working or I don’t know how to cook something, they all help me.” She says she never feels alone.

She is picking up some Dhivehi, but says she can understand a lot more than she can speak.

“My accent doesn’t help,” she says with a giggle, “it makes words sound completely wrong, and sometimes it just means a completely different thing.”

Her neighbour finds Alison “hilarious” and they have bilingual conversations in the mornings.

Jalaluddin School

Alison is currently teaching three biology classes at Jalaluddin School: two grade 9 classes and one grade 10 class. One of her grade 9 classes is one she also taught last year, and she says they work like a “well-oiled machine” now: “I’m getting used to them and they’re getting used to me.”

The school’s head of department gave her an “idea of what needs to be taught and over what time-frame” at the beginning of the term. The departments then have weekly meetings where they discuss what the students have been learning.

“You can’t choose what to teach, but you have freedom to do it in whatever way you want,” she says, adding that her students enjoy films and slideshows. She’s teaching them about the heart this week.

The program has provided her with everything she needs and she says “even the things I didn’t think I would need I can get easily on the island.”

The school went on a science trip once, and Alison says it was nice to be around her students in a non-classroom environment which allowed her to get to know them better.

“Everybody is really friendly, and we have been on some really nice staff trips. They have been some of the best days here for me, going on picnics to uninhabited islands.”

Home Sickness?

Alison has travelled to Canada and Thailand, among other places, but she has never been away from home for so long. “I’m really enjoying it, it’s an amazing country, it’s wonderful.”

The school organised a house for her, with bright purple and aqua walls, which is less than a five minute bicycle ride from the school.

“The house is so uplifting: I never feel depressed,” she says.

Although every now and then she gets a craving for something (unhealthy) to eat from back home, “some ice cream or chocolate or popcorn,” she says she loves Maldivian food. “It’s so healthy and tasty; just looking at my skin I can see how good the food is for me.”

Alison also tutors a girl after class and says the girl’s mother has just about adopted her. “She’s always checking up on me and she gives me dinner.”

Alison says she’s very lucky that the school has really good internet access.

“The internet just makes the world so much smaller. I can keep in touch with everyone,” she says. She speaks to her parents every Friday so she doesn’t “feel so far away.”

She loves the lifestyle, the colours, the food, the weather, the view, and her job. And she says if she ever gets stressed, she just has to walk 500 feet and she’s at a spectacular beach: “What’s not to like?”

Alison will continue to teach until November this year, when she will decide whether or not to renew her contract for a third year. “I don’t know if I will renew it again,” she says. “It’s something about the Maldives, I don’t have to look too far ahead.”

There are currently fourteen other education volunteers in different islands throughout the Maldives working through the IVP.

The International Volunteer’s Program (IVP) began operating in 2009 in a partnership between Friends of Maldives (FOM), the Ministry of Health and Family, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is coordinated principally by the Maldivian High Commission in London.

Its intent is to recruit qualified teachers and health professionals from overseas. The education volunteers teach in local schools in small island communities.