Samoa’s Latest Tsunami Death Toll To Be RevisedPosted: October 12, 2009
Government officials in Samoa are revising the latest death toll in the tsunami disaster which hit the South Coast of Upolu, Samoa, last Tuesday 29th September, as well as American Samoa and Tonga. They are presenting reviewing the list of missing persons in Samoa, some of whom have been presumed dead and listed on the official list of 142 dead. Legal opinion in Samoa is that missing persons cannot be declared until two years has passed. That includes children.
Samoa Government says an unknown number of bodies have been buried without Samoa Police, or other authorities, being notified. pacificEyeWitness.org has reported on this in previous posts based on information we received from local sources, and our knowledge of the “outback” vilages in the South Coast. It is Samoa Police who provide the death count to the Samoan Government. The chaos and devastation caused by the tsunami along the South Coast villages meant that when bodies have been found, some in tact, some not, many were decomposed. This means they could not have been easily identifiable.
Bodies have been reportedly buried by both loved ones, and those who found them, in unmarked graves. Some of those bodies were known to those who buried them. Others may not have been. Those numbers are unknown, say Government officials. In the heat of Samoa, along the South Coast where the infrastructure has been damaged with no electricity available to villages, bodies would have severely decayed if left out in the sun with the accompanying odour of death.
Right now, Government are presenting checking through all arrivals and departures from Samoa to try to determine the exact number of tourists who were in Samoa, and have yet to be confirmed as alive. They acknowledge that right now, the number of tourists who may have been in the South Coast of Upolu when the tsunami hit is “unknown”. That’s not surprising for a tourist location to be honest. Because often when tourists come to the South Coast, it’s a holiday escape, and no one ever expected a tsunami in Samoa. It’s the first time it’s ever happened in our lifetime.
The last official known tourist body, awaiting verification may be that of Brazilian Ana Isabel Pinheiro da Silva, aged 41, an IT specialist, who was studying English in New Zealand before arriving in Samoa as a tourist. Fingerprint records will be used to identify the body. The Brazilian Embassy in Australia are facilitating her identification. Her family in Brazil are awaiting her body’s return. We’re post more on Ana’s journey home.
I want to add here that there has been great care taken by the Samoan Government to account for all known deaths and injuries suffered by those on the South Coast, including tourists. If there’s one thing that Samoans holds dear when people visit Samoa as guests, it’s making sure that regardless of which lands and nationalities, guests come from, they are looked after. That means protecting their lives in a natural disaster, come what may to their own lives. That’s how Samoans think of tourists, and other guests to Samoa, and their loved ones.
So it has been gutwrenching for tourist resort and fale owners in the South Coast, that even one tourist suffered loss of life or injury. It is as heartbreaking to Samoans to hear of tourist deaths, as it is to hear of the deaths of our people in Samoa. On behalf of all Samoans, around the world, we offer our condolences to those tourists and families who grieve the loss of a loved one. The Samoan Government is unable to release the names of tourists killed in Samoa’s tsunami.