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Tavita Tusitala

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Damages from Tropical Cyclone Wilma not a national disaster
« on: February 02, 2011, 11:12:35 AM »
Damages from Tropical Cyclone Wilma do not merit a national disaster declaration
January 25, 2011
 - Governor Togiola Tulafono on Monday received a preliminary assessment report for Tropical Cyclone Wilma – on the cyclone’s impact on the Territory’s critical infrastructure, buildings, housing, and businesses. The self assessment by government departments and agencies was also received.

Governor Togiola said the preliminary report on the impact of Tropical Cyclone Wilma --coordinated and prepared by the American Samoa Department of Homeland Security (ASDHS), the Territorial Emergency Management Coordinating Office (TEMCO), Department of Public Safety and American Samoa Red Cross -- does not immediately indicate sufficient severity and magnitude of damages to warrant a formal reques tfor a presidential emergency declaration. The second phase of the assessment will begin tomorrow, which will be much more specific and targeted.

“Based on the report that has been compiled, I believe, at this point in time, these initial findings does not yet satisfy the basis for a request by the Governor to seek a national disaster declaration for American Samoa from the President of the United States,” said Governor Togiola. “I feel that it must be based on a finding that effective response is beyond the capabilities of our territorial government and that Federal assistance is necessary.”

Governor Togiola said he has requested a second in-depth report from ASDHS and TEMCO to begin today, Tuesday. The assessment will revalidate the property damage claims of families who are currently being housed in local shelters, as well as agriculture and flood damage.

“A second look at our preliminary assessment is a good thing because our situation will again be closely examined and compilation of figures will be revisited to gain an improved overview of our situation,” said Governor Togiola. “Based on the results of the second report, and the recommendations of our emergency response team, will determine whether to proceed with a request for a presidential disaster declaration or not.”

“However, although the extent of the damage from Tropical Cyclone Wilma may not be sufficient to warrant a request for a major disaster declaration, we are already looking at ways to assist some families who may have actually sustained damage that requires some assistance. We are looking into possible ways of helping if we can,” said Governor Togiola.

At the preliminary report meeting, Governor Togiola also met with Mr. David Nichols, Program Director at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington DC, who was able to observe firsthand the positive response from ASDHS, TEMCO and first responders during Tropical Cyclone Wilma.

“We are very happy to have Mr. Nichols on island to see up close the execution of our emergency operations,” said Governor Togiola. “Mr. Nichols has promised that he will give a full report of what he observed on island to their office in Washington DC. I wish to thank him for his assistance to our local Homeland Security and to our government.”

Governor Togiola also thanked ASDHS and Director Tuala Mike Sala, Department of Public Safety and Commissioner Tuaolo Manaia Fruean, Department of Public Works and Director Taeaotui Punaofo Tilei, American Samoa Red Cross and President Lolo Moliga, as well as all the first responders – the government authorities, departments and agencies, and volunteers for a remarkable team effort and support during Tropical Cyclone Wilma.

“Thank you for all your efforts in ensuring the safety of our Territory and expeditious assistance to our citizens during the cyclone,” said Governor Togiola. “The American Samoa emergency response operation was a great success because of dedicated and caring people and I wish to recognize all of you for a great job. Let us reflect on our accomplishments during our preparations and response to Wilma --what went well, what we can improve and do better-- and be prepared for future incidents. Thank you. We thank God for looking after you while you were looking after our people. May God bless you all abundantly.”


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