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More victims recovered in aftermath of Tsunami in (Western) Samoa

02 October, 2009

A meeting has been held in Apia to consult with the families of tsunami victims about government assistance for funeral arrangements.

The official death toll from the tsunami hs now officially reached 125 in Samoa, with eight more bodies recovered so far today.

Leilani Momoseia reports from Samoa.

    “About 200 family members of the tsunami victims packed into the fale. The government was asking the relatives what they thought of the idea of one funeral for the 103 bodies that remain in the morgue. The government if offering to provide the casket and the morgue costs. However, many of the families are not happy with the idea of a mass funeral. They are wanting to know if the government will still provide financial assistance if they choose to bury their family members themselves. Another meeting will be held on Saturday.”

Thousands have been left homeless in Samoa and a total 32,000 people have been affected in some way by the waves the 8.0 magnitude undersea quake caused.

The Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi surveyed the damage on the south coast yesterday.

    “Much debris had covered some of the bodies and also some had been carried away for distances to be thrown back into coast or bushes. Some of the villages had complete destruction, all the houses had been destroyed.”

Two close family members of the Prime Minister are reported to have died in the tsunami that hit many villages on the south eastern coast of Upolu island which includes the prime minister’s constituency of Lepa.

Tuila’epa says two of his relatives were killed when their vehicle was washed away by the big waves while heading to the next village of Lalomanu.

For the survivors, the relief effort continues with the first emergency aid from Australia and New Zealand having already arrived on military planes.

A Royal New Zealand Airforce Boeing 757 left for Samoa this morning with supplies and search and rescue teams.

Group Captain John Cummings says a Hercules will also leave with a desalination plant.

The French authorities in New Caledonia say relief supplies and medical personnel will be sent to Samoa from both New Caledonia and French Polynesia, as part of co-ordinated relief efforts with New Zealand and Australia.

Our New Caledonia correspondent, Claudine Wery, says two aircraft are about to fly to Apia.

    “From Noumea a plane, a Casa, will leave tonight or tomorrow morning with 30 people and civil and military medical team, and also another Casa will leave French Polynesia with the same kind of relief.”

The New Caledonian government has made available seven doctors to supplement the french military medical team.

Our reporter Leilani Momoisea says the national disaster team is very appreciative of overseas aid.

    “The Prime Minister mentioned that you can’t ask for enough in times like these and he didn’t want it to be like it was when the cyclones happened and there’d been some sort of monkey business with not everyone getting the aid that they should so that’s something that they really want to show the international communuity that they are doing, that they are distributing it right.”

The Red Cross says the nation’s morgue facilities are struggling to cope with the number of bodies.

The charity is rushing to provide shelter for the many people who have lost their homes, and tents will arrive today.

Rosemary North, of New Zealand’s Red Cross says there are adequate medical facilities and food supplies but insufficient morgue space.

Samoa’s Department of Health Director of Clinical Services Dr Limbo Fiu says hundreds of the injured are being cared for at Apia’s main hospital and at emergency centres closer to the worst affected areas.

    “We have dispatched various teams of doctors and nurses and everyone from the hospital to the remote villages so they can access these people who are obviously injured and are unable to have any transport to come to the district hospital or to come to the main hospital in Apia. Basically we are receiving more bodies, they are coming in decomposed.”

The chief executive of the health ministry says a lack of water and food make the risk of typhoid, dysentery and other preventable diseases occurring very high.

Palanitina Toelupe says people are also likely to get eye infections if they don’t take precautions.

Meanwhile, a church minister from one of Samoa’s most damaged villages says lives could have been saved if his village had received a warning.

Reverend Uaea Isaraelu says about 30 people from Saleapaga village were killed in the tsunami and lives would not have been lost if a warning had come in time.

He says there was about 10 minutes between the time of the earthquake and the tsunami hitting which would have given the villagers the time to run if there had been a warning.

Reverend Isaraelu says the villagers are now too afraid to return to the coast and want the government to help them relocate.

And phone lines between Samoa and New Zealand have been overloaded for much of the morning as worried people take advantage of free calls to check on friends and relatives.

Telecommunications companies Two Degrees, Telecom and Vodafone have offered free calls to Samoa since yesterday but say the phone lines are now saturated.

People are being asked to keep their calls as short as they can.

The tsumai tragedy has cast a shadow over the Pacific Mini Games in the Cook Islands where flags have been at half mast.

A Samoan competitor, Tanifano Sonalole Tausoga, has been stunned at seeing pictues of the devastation.

    “And when I saw the pictures I was like I was thinking to myself you know how I would feel if I was in those people’s shoes. We actually live on the other side of the island, in town. So we’ve been spared you know from all this.”

Radio New Zealand International


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