Pacific Voyager Forum

American Samoa => Samoa Quake and Tsunami News => Topic started by: ipacific on March 24, 2009, 10:43:50 AM

Title: Remembering the big hurricane of 1991 in Samoa
Post by: ipacific on March 24, 2009, 10:43:50 AM

Back in early December, 1991, Tropical Cyclone Val  lashed the Samoan islands for five days and destroyed most of the food crops, disrupted economic activity and left thousands of people homeless.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said that 60 percent of the housing on Tutuila island, American Samoa, had been damaged by the storm and 5,000 people had been received in emergency shelters. The Department of Agriculture estimated that 90 to 95 percent of the subsistence crops had been destroyed.

Officials said the storm had taken 12 lives in Western Samoa, which has a population of 190,000 on its four inhabited islands, and one in neighboring American Samoa, which consists of seven islands and has been a United States possession since 1899. About 43,000 people live in American Samoa. Worst Storm in Decades

"It was the worst hurricane in the area in the past 30 years," said Dan Aga, the spokesman for the American Samoan delegate to Congress. He noted that President Bush had signed a major disaster declaration request for the United States territory in the South Pacific.

"Val's damage to Western Samoa is more serious than that of the last big cyclone, Ofa, in February 1990, because the country's main economic activities -- fishing, farming and forestry -- have been hit hard," said Philippe Boulle, director of the New York office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Organization.

Val hit Western Samoa on Dec. 6, with winds of 150 miles per hour, followed by severe flooding. The eye of the cyclone passed over Savaii island, then struck the region of Apia, on nearby Upolu, and moved on to the American Samoan islands of Tutuila and Manua, Dec. 9 and 10, before dissipating.

The survey also said 95 percent of the houses on Savaii and 70 to 80 of those on Upolu had been damaged. Many Government buildings were badly damaged, and most power lines are down.

A Western Samoa report said that food was likely to become a major problem within two weeks and that food relief should be given priority. There is also an urgent need for shelter materials like tarpaulins and tents.

In a treaty in 1899, Britain relinquished claims to the islands, Germany got control of the islands of Western Samoa and the United States took responsibility for the eastern islands.

In 1914, New Zealand occupied the German colony and remained in control until Western Samoa was granted independence in 1962. American Samoa is a United States territory.

From news reports including