Friday, October 02, 2009

American Samoa Wave

The FBI on Friday released video footage showing waves rushing in and violently tossing cars and trucks in a parking lot as a deadly tsunami struckAmerican Samoa last week.

The dramatic video was taken on the morning of Sept. 29 from a stationary security camera at the FBI office in Pago Pago. The video shows about a dozen cars, ranging from an SUV to a Volkswagen Beetle, being thrown around like whitewater rafts.
The two-minute clip also shows three people walking in the parking lot shortly before the wave struck. One man runs quickly in the opposite direction less than 30 seconds before the water enters the scene. More....
Read more at the NY DAILY NEWS

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Thursday, October 01, 2009


Erica Wales, a Peace Corps volunteer in the village of Salesatele, said the earthquake woke her up early yesterday morning.The 23-year-old, who has lived in Samoa since June last year and works as a marine protection officer with the Peace Corps, said she was about 15 metres from the beach when the waves hit. She is blogging from Samoa and provides her story:

I’m lucky to be alive

I’m sure most of you have heard about the earthquake and tsunami that hit Samoa by now and am wondering how I’m doing. Well, here’s the story:

I was sleeping when the 8.0 earthquake hit. My house started shaking and things were falling off shelves. Books fell down, the phone mounted on my wall fell down, cans of food fell…I’m smart enough to know when things start falling it is probably wise to get out. So grabbed my phone and left my room. The shaking lasted a long time too, at least a minute. I texted a good friend here with the message of “shit that was big” when it was over. She agreed. About that time I got a call from the Peace Corps medical officer that I should probably move inland because the possibility of a tsunami. So I grabbed an ie and left.

I was walking on the road which parallels the beach when I noticed something wasn’t right. I could see structures like rocks and coral which I have never seen above water, not even at the lowest of low tides. This didn’t bode well. Then I noticed the really odd wave action, something just wasn’t right. I had just turned the corner of the road and was now headed inland, versus parallel to the beach as I had been just one minute before, when the waves hit the beach and surged up the road. At this point I started running, as did my village. As I was running I could hear the water surging up the river, tearing trees down.

I got up to the main road where most everyone was. The matai were directing everyone to head to Siuniu, the village inland. I could see the look of panic and worry as parents asked where their kids were, for they were headed to the primary school which is near me. The matai were organized and knew where to direct the parents to in order to find their kids. I went up to Siuniu and waited with my village. At this point we were getting reports of a school in Poutasi (a few villages to the west) collapsing and killing three kids. Everyone was on phones, calling relatives and friends in neighboring villages, trying to find out what was going on. Reports came that 50 people in Poutasi were dead, buried in the sand. A boy in neighboring Salani died. And 15 in Aleipata were dead. As far as I know at this point, no one in my village died. We are lucky.

Then I got a report that my house and another were destroyed. I wanted to go and see if this was true, but I knew to stay. I waited a few hours then went to see what the damage was. Sure enough, my house was flattened. The tsunami ripped the house from its foundation and deposited it 10 feet in front of the house, collapsed beyond repair. I could see all of my stuff waterlogged and muddy. I’m not sure what can be salvaged. I’m going back tomorrow to find out what I can still use, but I know most things will be trashed.

While that is unfortunate, at least it was just my house and not my home. The other family I feel bad for because it was their home. I had stuff there which will be expensive to replace, but it wasn’t everything in the world I owned, just everything I Samoa I owned. Most of my stuff is still back in the US. I feel bad for the other family who truly lost everything. I feel really bad about the three computers I had in my house for the school. I don’t think those will be salvaged, but another Peace Corps Volunteer already told me she would donate two to my school, so I’m happy about that. I also am upset that I don’t know where my dog is. I saw her after the earthquake, and then don’t know where she went. I hope she is ok. Animals are smarter than humans in many ways, so she probably left before I did, but I’m still worried. I hope I find her.

The Peace Corps Office came out and drove me to Apia. I could see the damage in the villages as I passed. Poutasi looks pretty bad; boats are inland, houses devastated, and the school collapsed. Their village is pretty flat on the seaward side, so the wave did quite a bit of damage. The district hospital there looked like it was spared, might have water damage though. As we were driving over Cross Island Road, many cars were headed south to help clean up and try to find their family.

Once in Apia, small aftershocks could still be felt throughout the day. Around 5:30 pm the tsunami sirens went off. Everyone headed up the mountains carrying what they could. It turned out to be a false alarm, but better safe than sorry. Most businesses were closed as people went to help.

Report is over 80 here are dead. If you want to help, go here.

I want to say thank you to all my fellow PCVs. I don’t think my phone was quite for five minutes yesterday morning. Everyone wanted to see if I was ok; thanks, makes me feel loved. When I got to Apia, a bunch of people offered up their house and everyone wanted to know what they could do to help. I appreciate the support guys. You guys are awesome! Also to everyone who posted on facebook and sent me e-mails, thanks for your support as well. And finally to Teuila; I was awake after the earthquake but not enough awake to be thinking about a tsunami. If she hadn’t called right after the quake stopped, I probably would have been at my house. If I had left my house just a minute later…well, yeah.

I gave a written eyewitness account to Sydney Morning Herald and a phone interview to NY Daily News. Here’s the link for the NY article:

And the Sydney article:

So that is all I know for now. I’m off to buy some new clothes because I have the clothes on my back and one spare. I’ll keep you posted on what goes on.


SAMOA, Sumatra and Indonesia Tsunami and Earthquake Survivors

EARTHQUAKES in Indonesia and Sumatra
TSUNAMI in Samoa and American Samoa

Our hearts, sympathy and prayers go out to the survivors of the earthquakes hitting Indonesia and Sumatra, as well as the tsunami that hit Samoa and American Samoa on Tuesday. In Samoa and American Samoa, at least 140 people died after a magnitude 8.0 quake struck at dawn Tuesday, sending four waves, each 15 to 20 feet high. The earthquake that struck western Indonesia on Wednesday killed at least 529 people, more than half of them in the coastal Sumatran city of Padang, according to news reports. Thousands more were believed dead, said Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari, including many trapped in an estimated 500 buildings that toppled or were damaged in the magnitude 7.6 quake.

The downtown area of Fagatogo, a town of 3,000 on the shore of Pago Pago Harbor in American Samoa, is submerged by seawater after a massive tsunami flattened villages and swept cars and people out to sea. Triggered by a powerful underwater earthquake, four tsunami waves 15 to 20 feet high roared ashore on American Samoa, reaching up to a mile inland. Read more at ABC
here: STORY


Our hearts go out to the Samoa, Sumatra and Indonesia survivors…

"The earthquake itself was terrifying," said John Newton, 66, of American Samoa. "Then the tsunami came just minutes after. The force it came with was just overwhelming. It destroyed everything in its path." Newton said a friend in a remote part of the island had died in the disaster. "I don't think anyone here will be untouched by this," he said. Wooden structures were toppled and the contents of buildings were swept away. Cars were overturned and roads strewn with debris. The tsunami knocked out one of two power plants in American Samoa, and communications throughout the islands were spotty. More at the LATIMES

Dennis Famui said he walked outside his hillside home immediately after the earth shook and looked out at the bay at the center of American Samoa's main island. "A couple minutes after the earthquake, you could see the water draw back and expose the reef and part of the docks," said Famui, 45. "Then the water came back and tossed cars and container boxes and pushed them right back into the bay." He said the tsunami wasn't a wave that could be spotted from a distance, but a mass of water that rose with steady, destructive force as it neared.
More at the LATIMES



First photos from American Samoa Earthquake Tsunami

TASMANIAN tsunami survivor John Blacker, now recovering in a Samoan hospital, has told of his ordeal. An Australian survivor of the Samoa tsunami clung to a palm tree while waves battered him and his wife before she was ripped from his arms and drowned. John Blacker — who cannot swim — said the waves tossed him around and pounded him with debris for "what seemed like forever", the Hobart Mercury reports. More NEWS HERE.

Joey Cummings Watched Water Rise to His 2nd Story Window Just Minutes after Quake Rocked South Pacific.

American Samoa Governor Togiola Tulafono said the effects of the tsunami would touch everyone. "I don't think anybody is going to be spared in this disaster," he said.
Eni Faleomavaega, who represents American Samoa in the US Congress, said the waves had "literally wiped out all the low-lying areas in the Samoan islands". He said the tsunami had struck too quickly for a full evacuation. Samoa's Deputy Prime Minister Misa Telefoni told AAP that the ocean had receded, heralding the oncoming tsunami, "within five minutes" of the quake. "With the location and the intensity... I don't know if anything better could have been done."

We invite MORE SAMOA SURVIVORS to share their personal stories.

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