pacificEyeWitness is undergoing some big changes and revamping the site. About time, we thought!
To search for posts submitted before April 2010, you can search and read them right here using the search button.
Thanks for your patience. If you want to stay informed of our changes and new postings, subscribe to our site. Thanks to our readers for visiting us!
SAN FRANCISCO — A team of U.S. Geological Survey scientists have developed a web service that combines seismic data about an earthquake with Tweets of surprise and angst from the popular microblogging service’s users.
The goal of the project is to improve emergency response by providing a crowdsourced window of the conditions on the ground immediately following a quake.
“Why would such a system work?” asked Paul Earle, a geologist at the USGS, at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting Monday. “Because people like to tweet after an earthquake.”
It turns out that the “Earthquake! Earthquake!” SOS that you tweet, aggregated with thousands of others, provides an excellent indication of the strength and severity of a quake. A little rumbler yields just a small spike, while a strong quake produces a huge spike in Twitter activity, as seen in the graph above.
Along the South Coast of Upolu, on Tuesday 29th September 2009, over 140 people lost their lives, over 300 injured, crops ruined, villages, schools, clinics, fales and some resorts destroyed leaving thousands homeless, hungry and destitute after an 8.3 earthquake triggered a destructive tsunami. American Samoa and Niutoputapu lost over 40 lives.
This is Part 2 of a two part post by our newest PEW writer Malia Tua’i Manuleleua who has recently returned from Samoa after volunteering with the Psycho-Social Response teams working in tsunami-affected villages along the South Coast of Upolu. One of about 70 or so local and overseas volunteers, Malia was part of a team assessing the physical, spiritual and mental health needs of individuals and families affected.
They worked in the villages of Ti’avea Tai, Vaovai and Saleaumua. Other team members: Ruta Sinclair, Team Leader and local volunteer; Pastor Ron Westbrook, Assembly of God, Australia; David Lui (NZ), and Peone Afamasaga (Samoa). They identified those who required counselling and further specialist services. Other teams visited families in all the affected villages along the southern-west and east coastline from Siumu, Falealili to Aleipata including the small island of Manono.
Malia describes what she saw during her two weeks in Samoa. We published Part 1 yesterday. This is Part 2.
We Were Walking Among Angels
By Malia Tua’i Manuleleua
On white Sunday we visited the Tsunami Ward at the national hospital with Elena Peteru, a local counselor at the University of the South Pacific. We gave out the crunchie bars and lollies to the tsunami survivors, children, parents and hard working staff, gifted from Cook Island friends Dr Tapu Rairi and Bernard Tairea. We also delivered medical supplies to Lalomanu Hospital from Dr Joe Williams from the Mt Wellington Accident & Family Health clinic. Tauilili Paul Stowers and his son Daniel had travelled from Wellington with suitcases of clothes and food for the tsunami victims and gave them out randomly to villagers along the affected coastline. Such has been the overflowing spirit of love and compassion from all.
A whole nation rallied together to take whatever was in their cupboards, in their pockets to those in need.
It has been the same with a tidal wave of assistance from all corners of the world, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, UK, USA, Middle East, Asia etc. The giving and receiving has been overwhelming.
Samoans and non-Samoans have worked shoulder to shoulder, offering freely of their time, skills, knowledge, love and compassion for the cause. Most working more than 12 hour shifts, weekends, some forced to go home out of sheer exhaustion, some sleeping where they lay their weary heads.
In the villages, despite the circumstances, families welcomed us into their tents or makeshift fales, offered us water and food and still managed to give us a warm, dignified smile. It was a humbling experience.
When our 4wheel drive was stuck in the sand at Ti’avea Tai, the village boys pushed it to firmer ground. When driving back to the main road, up the rough access track, our trucks right rear wheel hung off a ditch a metre deep. Elderly women, men and small children in the tents came to our aid and helped to lift and push the truck back onto the road- amazingly, we achieved this on one attempt.
At Saleaumua, the next day the axle of a private vehicle belonging to one of our volunteers snapped. In seconds we were surrounded by villagers who quickly summoned Lino the village mechanic. He and his boys were able to get it back on the road within 3 hours. Considering the complexity of the job and limited tools at their disposable it was a small miracle.
We were definitely walking among angels.
But that is who we are as a people, always looking out for each other. It is how we have been raised and live our lives. This tragedy has made us realise and appreciate that even more today.
Soon after we were blessed with heavy showers from the heavens that cooled us from the heat, cleansed the dirt from our faces, and quenched our thirst till the next day.
We met a puppy called Sunami, talked to children, mothers, fathers, a blind woman, a disabled person, a fisherman, a planter, a teacher, a carpenter, a shop keeper, a taxi-driver, a beach fale operator, ministers and their wives, matais (chiefs) two 90 year old great grandmothers, a pre-school teacher, a 12 year old school girl and many many more.
Each had their own remarkable heroic story to tell- stories of survival and loss, of incredible acts of kindness, of bravery. Some emotionally, physically exhausted, dazed and lost, some philosophical and strong, grateful to be alive, and a gentle acceptance that it is Gods will and that life must go on.
So many lives changed on the 29 September. As a nation, Samoa has endured so much together, of great tragedy and sorrow, of great joy, great courage and great resilience. And the world has stood beside this little country in the middle of the Pacific ocean. These are definitely days to remember. Mistakes will be made, we are only human. But let us not forget the bountiful good that has been done and will no doubt continue.
On my last visit to Vaovai a matai farewelled us with a familiar biblical verse, “O oe o le Isaraelu moni…” to express his deep gratitude for all who assisted and gave so generously in his time of need, from all over Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, United Kingdom, USA, Germany, Middle East, Asia from all four corners of the world.
The work by all has been heart-wrenching and yet so uplifting. We came to give but what we gave was nothing compared to what we received.
On Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in its national update of nationwide disasters said the death toll of the tsunami was at 34….Emergency Operation Center (EOC) spokesperson Betty Ah Soon said the death toll now includes the two children that are still missing, but their families have already held their memorial services. Read the rest of this entry »
The tourism industry is the mainstay of many people in this small village on Manono Island. Now they have lost their livelihoods. Sunset View Fales is a family-run beach fale accomodation that can be back in business within six weeks with your help.
Sunset View Fales has four fales still standing along with a water tank. They lost their boats, six guest fales, and their cooking and dining facilities in the tsunami. They can reopen if we help them purchase a boat, get their water system working again and build a small cooking and dining fale. This will mean immediate income and help in a sustainable recovery from the devestating events.
What we need to buy to make this happen: Read the rest of this entry »
Shared via AddThis
At Samoa’s National Memorial Funeral Service, the Prime Minister announced that 142 people had died in the Samoan tsunami. These figures are based on numbers provided to Government by police. This included Samoans, New Zealanders and Australians. Only the names of Samoans has been released. Unlike the initial list, which listed their names in the order in which their bodies were recovered, this updated list is in alphabetical order. Where-ever possible, we have tried to provide information of tourists and visitors to Samoa who perished on Tuesday 29th September 2009 when a earthquake triggered a tsunami in the South Coast of Upolu killed many and destroying villages.
For the updated casualty list, announced at Samoa’s National Memorial Funeral Service, please click here.
If you have any information please call the hotline: 0800 4 Aisling (0800 4 2475 464)
Aisling has been missing for over a week today. This child needs to be found. Help find her. She needs to be home with her parents. If you know anyone, who has had anything to do with her disappearance, do the right thing and call the New Zealand police at the hotline on 0800 4275464.
Please call the HOTLINE f you have any information on Aisling’s disappearance.
Though we have been busy focused on the tsunami, and its devastation in Samoa, we have been closely following the sad story of two-year-old Aisling who disappeared from West Auckland, New Zealand. We thought she would have been found by now. But sadly, no.
Aisling went missing from her grandparents’ home in Longburn Rd Henderson reportedly after 5pm last Monday 5th October, 2009.
Henderson Police are continuing their search for Aisling [pronounced Ashling] Symes after she went missing from an address in Longburn Road, Henderson Monday 5 October at about 5.30pm.
Aisling is aged two years. She is a tall girl for her age, of European appearance, with light brown hair.
Aisling is believed to be wearing green parka jacket or ski jacket, blue jeans embroidered with flowers, and has white tennis shoes on her feet.
Police are eager to hear from anyone who has information about the disappearance of Aisling Symes. Please call the hotline if you have any information.
Last night in New Zealand, as White Sunday programmes were held throughout Sunday, another family in New Zealand mourned the passing of another victim of Samoa’s tsunami disaster on Tuesday 28th September along the South Coast of Upolu.
In Auckland, at Mangere’s Samoan Methodist Church, family and friends packed out the church to join the family in a Family Service ahead of this morning’s burial service for Peter. Those who knew Peter as friends or colleague knew him as Peter. His full name: Levaopolo Ridley Peter Letiu.
Peter was one of the first bodies found after the tsunami. A volunteer firefighter, people was in the truck, with four others, trying to raise the tsunami alarm to low-lyingvillages in the South Coast of Upolu. Instead, the truck tipped over a steep cliff, injuring the firefighters. Peter died later in hospital of his injuries.
Peter moved to Samoa to help his mother in the village of Saitaoa. He is the first Samoan firefighter to be killed in the line of duty. Samoa’s Fire Commissioner Seve Tony Hill, who has been helping to lead Samoa’s search and rescue since the tsunami hit the South Coast , will be speaking at Peter’s funeral.
His funeral service will be held at Mangere’s Samoan Methodist Church, on the corner of Bader Drive.He will be buried today at Mangere Lawn Cemetery.
Safe journey home Peter. Ia manuia lou malaga.
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.