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Tsunami in the South Pacific Devastates the Coasts of Samoa and American Samoa

  • Ethan Gelber
  • 1 October 2009

The news from Samoa Islands is heartbreaking. On early Tuesday morning, triggered by a powerful undersea earthquake (8.0 in magnitude), a towering tsunami struck with disastrous consequences. Three surges were reported, with waves of up to five or six metres reaching almost two metres higher than sea level.

“At this time [late afternoon on Tuesday in Samoa], there are 69 confirmed deceased, 146 injured brought to the hospitals, with several missing. To date there are only five tourists in the deceased list,” reported Nynette Sass, the whl.travel local partner in Samoa. (Read more about Nynette Sass, the right person in the right place during these difficult days.)

“Please bear with us whilst we work our way through this sad sad event. We’re working with the High Commissions in identifying and locating all the visitors from the devastated areas and trying to get through to their loved ones to let them know their respective states.”

The tragic loss of life was accompanied by significant property damage, the details of which are still emerging. “All our member properties on the south coast have been wiped out,” reported Sass. “We’re madly trying to move all our tourists from the south coast to Apia.”

The whl.travel family has already begun mobilising in support of relief efforts. “There are hundreds of families with nothing left except the clothes on the backs,” said Sass. “Used clothing, cooking utensils… perhaps if someone can coordinate from the different countries, we would appreciate it very much.”

The Latest Word from the South Coast of Upolu

Whereas Apia is located on the north side of Upolu, Samoa’s main island, the south received the full brunt of the waves. “We were all very, very lucky at Virgin Cove Resort as nobody was killed or badly hurt,” reported Mats Loefkvist, manager of this hotel located on the south coast. “Although we were very close to losing many lives we managed to get everyone up in the forest rather quickly. Due to the fantastic and fearless work of our staff to save all our tourists plus my wife and kids we are all safe today.

“We only had 10 minutes between the big earthquake and the first wave. Luckily it happened in the early morning and not during the night. The wave also came in from the side which reduced its impact and then swept away the beach villa plus five smaller fales. We managed to get everyone to the church minister’s house and we all camped in the church hall during the night. The village of Sa’anapu brought us food and everything else we needed.

“The damage to Virgin Cove Resort is very little compared to other resorts and villages like Lalomanu, which today is non-existent. I have received many mails from people asking how they could help with a donation. The Red Cross has it all set up as they do a fantastic work to help people at this time. I know that clothes are badly needed as many many people have lost everything.”

For contributions and donations, please visit the Current Appeals page of the Red Cross in New Zealand.

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Ethan Gelber

In addition to his freelance travel writing (Lonely Planet author, ex-AFAR Ambassador, Huffington Post Travel blogger and more), Ethan has agitated tirelessly for responsible/sustainable travel practices, family travel, keeping things local, and quality and relevance in publishing and destination marketing. Among many other things, Ethan is editorial director of the Family Travel Association, a co-founder of OutBounding, and tackles content projects for HomeExchange.com and RW Social, which produces the NY Trav Fest. Previously, Ethan was Chief Communications Officer of the WHL Group, for which he founded and edited The Travel Word (this now-independent blog); publications manager of the French government tourist office (Atout France) in NYC; and helped manage a Paris-based bicycle tour operator.
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local knowledge, natural disasters, Oceania, personal experience, Polynesia, Samoa, whl.travel,

5 Responses to “Tsunami in the South Pacific Devastates the Coasts of Samoa and American Samoa”

  1. Don’t lose hope, my dear Samoans. There is always light in the midst of darkness.

  2. Shaun says:

    If anyone is based in Sydney, we are putting together a donation of clothing to send over. Let me know on shaun@urbanadventures if you can help.

  3. Bob Jones says:

    Hey Nyn – it is great getting these updates – we are so worried for everyone we know there !!

    LOL Bob

  4. Thoughts with our Samoan friends. Kia Kaha.

  5. Darron Raw says:

    Eiiish…Nynette, that is devastating news. We really hope that no further deaths are reported. Our thoughts are with you and all Samoans. Hang in there !

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