Samoa declares a National Day of Mourning

Today, Thursday 8 October 2009 (Friday NZ/Aust time) Samoa declares as a National Day of Mourning for those who lost their lives in the devastating tsunami which followed an 8.3 magnitude earthquake which struck on Tuesday 29th September 2009.
A public memorial service will take place at Apia Park where 10 caskets will solemnly be ushered in by a national Samoan police guard and will lie in state for the duration of the service which will kick off at 5pm (NZ time) today. The service is scheduled to run for two hours, after which the caskets will be taken to the mass burial site.

MORE ON THIS SOON [FULL STORY]

Lo’u atunu’u Samoa / My beloved home, Samoa

Even typing this is gut-wrenching. When the news hit here in Niu Sila / New Zealand, I feared for the worst, and hoped the best. The early reports were few and far between, keeping my hopes alive. Early in the morning a work colleague, who had just come back from a holiday in Samoa a week earlier, came into my office and casually joked about the tsunami hitting a few huts, might kill some chickens and a few roaming pigs. I know she meant it jest-fully, and I think I smiled and went along with it, because I was still hoping she was right, that it was just a few things.

But fear began to grow, a large lump in my throat, my stomach turned, as news throughout the day progressed and the magnitude of the disaster only just became apparent. All the news was about the Samoan Tsunami. My work colleague came in later that day and expressed her sadness and asked if my family was affected. As did many other work colleagues. I lied to them all, and said my family in Samoa is safe. But only minutes earlier, my mother had rung to say my cousins who had left for school in Samoa were still missing. Why did I lie? Because sometimes it’s easier to deal with a situation without worrying others. Despite feeling a deep hole in my soul, of worry and hurt, the need to lie also helped me cope with the unknown. Lying was also a form of keeping as much of normality intact despite your world crumbling around you.

Throughout the week I would stare outside my office window, high up in this glass tower, in this concrete jungle, looking into the distance of the beautiful Waitemata Harbour, beyond the mighty Rangitoto island and into the horizon towards the great Pacific ocean, towards Samoa.

It was an emotional rollercoaster every time I answered a call from family for updates, or clicked the refresh button on news websites. My heart was torn, ripped apart, and pulled in all directions. [FULL STORY]

117 Tsunami Victims Named

** WE ARE AWAITING A CONFIRMED LIST OF DECEASED FROM TUTUILA. STAY TUNED.

117 victims of Samoa Tsunami that hit on Tuesday 29 September 2009, have been named. We remember them. Our thoughts and prayers for the families who mourn.

1. Metita Sui (Koreti) Schwalger
2. Jerry Schwalger
3. Peter Leitu
4. Pili Poo
5. Mupenei Tofilau
6. Nonumaifale Tofilau
7. Siliva Eteuati
8. Falevalu Segifili
9. Amataga Tiotio
10. Vaisigano Lauvai
11. Siaea Areta
12. Tauavaga Tupuola
13. Sima Sepelini Okeni
14. Pula Sepelini
15. Maka Esera
16. Manino Faaaliga
17. Nuusilaga Aganuu
18. Masela Lafaua
19. Abish Schwalger
20. Quezon Lesa
21. Lafaua Rosa
22. Ranui Simanu
23. Merina Lesa
24. Lafotua Aiesi
25. Lua Tavale
26. Sara Amosa

[FULL STORY]

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]

THE DAY AFTER: Samoa Tsunami (Galu lolo)

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]

Earthquake in Samoa

At 8.55am (NZ time) today, we received report that a tsunami hit Samoa.

At 9.05am, we heard that a 1.57m Tsunami wave hit Pago Pago American Samoa, heading 100m inland.

At 9.13am, deaths were reported. News came in that Fagaloa and Lalomanu were hit bad.

At 9.24am, we found out that pretty much the whole of Apia had been evacuated to higher ground.

We opened up a discussion in the village for natives to post reports from loved ones in Samoa, and to keep everyone updated about official news, mostly from the radio.

I’ll be compiling the information we received there into categorized posts here, so you can more easily find the information you’re looking for.

God Bless Samoa.

xx HGG