Squealing pigs tore inland, and Filomena Taroa herded the children to higher ground.
The sea was rolling in deeper than anyone had ever seen last week on Papua New Guinea's island of New Britain.
"I don't know [why it happened]," the sturdy, barefoot grandmother told a visitor. "I'd never experienced it before."
As scientists warn of rising seas due to global warming, more reports are coming in of flooding from record high tides in villages like Kilu.
This week by boat, bus, and jetliner a handful of villagers are converging on Bali, Indonesia, to seek help from representatives of the more than 180 countries gathered there for a United Nations climate conference.
The coastal dwellers' plight—once considered theoretical—appears all too real in 2007. The problem is spreading to new coasts, and the waters are flowing further inland.
Scientists project that seas expanding from warmth and from the runoff of melting glaciers may displace millions of coastal inhabitants worldwide in this century if heat-trapping industrial emissions are not sharply curtailed.
A Europe-based research group, the Global Governance Project, will propose at the two-week Bali meeting that an international fund be established to resettle "climate refugees."
(Read "Climate Change Creating Millions of 'Eco Refugees,' UN Warns" [November 18, 2005].)
Ursula Rakova is a resident of the Carteret Atoll northeast of the nearby island of Bougainville.