Whole Villages, Whole Families…Gone

SPECIAL REPORT
Manutufatufa Asafo
1Samoana Upolu Correspondent Reports via cellphone

The big-clean up has begun in Samoa after four tsunami waves, the first one reportedly measuring 6 metres, slammed into the South – Southeast areas of the islands of Upolu and Savaii on Tuesday 29 September 2009 at 6.45am ST.

The tsunami followed an 8.3 magnitude earthquake with its epicenter 200 metres out at sea and approximately 40 metres below sea level. Hundreds of families from coastal villages were evacuated inland and have remained displaced since Tuesday.

International relief units from New Zealand, Australia and the United States arrived to the island nation on Wednesday and swiftly moved to assist the government in providing food and supplies to the areas hardest hit. Samoa Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Lupesoliai Malielegaoi and a team of government officials were ferried across to Savaii this morning to view first hand the areas on the big island, which up until now has not effectively been assessed.

Talking to international media, Prime Minister Tuilaepa, who arrived home early from scheduled meetings with the United Nations, said “Thankfully the alarm sounded on the radio as it gave people time to climb to higher ground. But not everyone escaped. So much is gone.”

“So many people are gone. I am saddened by all the loss.”

The areas on Savaii which would have felt the full effects of the tsunami would be Vaitoalua, Taga and Salailua. Moreso, Savaii would also have received major damage from the earthquake which preceeded the tsunami. Eyewitnesses from Savaii, who arrived on Upolu via private vessels, told 1Samoana that houses were down in almost all villages on Savaii. Some people did not know where to run. “We saw the wave coming, we ran towards the mountain. The whole time we were running up the mountain we were afraid that the volcano was going to erupt,” said one. [FULL STORY]