For many in Samoa, the sunrise this morning was a welcome reprieve from a day of earthquake and tsunami devastation followed by a sleepless night of wondering if something much bigger was on the horizon for the Day After.
Samoa and American Samoa disaster relief and government authorities worked well into the night and the early hours of this morning assessing damages in the island nations hardest hit areas and villages. As was reported yesterday, Lalomanu, Aleipata, Siumu and the whole tourist beach resort areas on the South-east side of Upolu right through to Fagaloa bore the full force of the tsunami. Some conflicting reports in International media networks regarding the size of the initial wave, left hundreds of families in New Zealand, Australia, Europe and the United States scrambling to make contact with loved ones living or vacationing in both Samoas. Land and cellphone lines were jammed for the best part of the day. The earliest report stated that the initial wave was 1.57 metres high while a later report claimed a 3 metre high wave had struck.
In its wake, a still unconfirmed 100 lives have been lost in Samoa while in American Samoa – international media claims a confirmed loss of 45 lives in Fagatogo and Pago Pago. Last night in a televised interview from Honolulu Hawaii, American Samoa Governor Togiola T.A. Tulafono issued a state of emergency for his U.S. Territorial island nation and along with Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann sent their condolences to the families in Samoa who have joined many in mourning the loss of a loved one.
Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Aiono Malielegaoi was excused from meetings with the United Nations in New York City so to return home to assist his people, stopping briefly to receive the condolences from NZ Prime Minister John Key and the promise of assistance and aide from New Zealand. In his place, Deputy Prime Minister Misa Telefoni Retzlaff had mobilized all facets of Samoa’s Disaster Relief team, including hospitals, paramedics, evacuation and search and rescue peoples and was himself seen delivering tents and food supplies to people who remained on higher ground even after the tsunami warning was lifted late yesterday afternoon.
Misa Telefoni Retzlaff persevered in tending to the needs of the people even when news of his cousin and island stalwart, Mrs. Tui Annandale, owner and operator of Sinalei Resort in Siumu, died when a wave hit the vehicle she was travelling in with her husband and other family members. [FULL STORY + PHOTOS]