Boxing Day, 26 December, 2004, is a day few will forget. That’s the day the Asian Tsunami unleashed its fury for thousands of miles across 13 countries -Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Maldives- leaving 230,000 people dead and half a million injured. Millions of people’s lives were forever changed by the tragic events of that day. For those used to working in recovery and disaster relief work, the Boxing Day tsunami was a challenge like no other. It presented what seemed like impossible recovery.
For the British Red Cross, one of the main relief and recovery agencies involved post-Asian Tsunami, it was their largest recovery effort since World War II. Armed with 30,000 Red Cross volunteers, the Red Cross spent £84.9million in its recovery effort.
Five years later, it looks back at the tragedy and reviews the long road to recovery. In the process, they’ve come up with a simulated challenge that literally puts you and I in the role of a decision maker at a tsunami disaster. Based on real life situations the British Red Cross were faced with, the interactive hands-on approach means you get to vicariously experience some of the challenges those on the front line faced.
Through a new interactive challenge, Decisions for Recovery, you can walk in the shoes of those who led recovery from the disaster. Drawing from the real-life dilemmas Red Cross staff faced, Decisions for Recovery, puts you to the test as the decision maker.
When so many are suffering, who do you help first? What kind of help do you offer and how do you decide between quick fixes which meet immediate needs and frustratingly slow but sustainable long-term projects?
As a disaster recovery manager for the British Red Cross, it’s up to you to direct and co-ordinate the Tsunami response, help rebuild lives and recover a future for people who have lost everything.
Alastair Burnett, British Red Cross Disaster Recovery Manager says he feels very proud of what the Red Cross achieved to help rebuild people’s lives, and more than that, build them back stronger.
“The challenges were enormous, the decisions – as people visiting the website will see – were incredibly difficult,” said Burnett.
“We were faced with the most difficult decisions of our lives, decisions that affected hundreds of thousands of people whose lives were destroyed by the tsunami.
“The support we received from the public was phenomenal and enabled us to mount our largest recovery effort since the Second World War. Now we want to tell the story of how the money people gave was spent and the difference it has made to people’s lives.”
Check it out and play the challenge. We did and it was thought-provoking. It’s a very handy useful website for disaster preparedness information. The interactive challenge gives you an insight into the recovery decisions made, or not made, in the aftermath of the Pacific Tsunami which hit Samoa, American Samoa and the Tongan island of Niuatoputapu on Tuesday 29th September 2009.
Decisions for Recovery’can be found at www.recoveringafuture.org.uk/challenge.
Fast Facts Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami
3 kilometres that the wave travelled inland
9 number on the Richter scale of the earthquake triggering the tsunami
13 number of countries affected
20 meters high – the wave that hit Indonesia
40 the number of countries with people dead in the tsunami
500 km per hour the wave travelled at
23,000 equivalent number of Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs it would take to release as much energy
30,000 Red Cross volunteers involved in the operation
230,000 people who died
500,000 people injured
1,500,000 children wounded, displaced or lost family
4,500,000 people who received recovery assistance from the Red Cross
5,000,000 people who lost homes, or access to food and water.
Total houses built: 2,936
- Indonesia: 2,212
- Sri Lanka: 258
- Maldives: 466
Total number of beneficiaries: 133,962 (calculated by average number in household)
- Indonesia: 34,068
- Sri Lanka: 91,644
- Maldives: 8,250
Number of direct beneficiaries (people who received grants)
- Indonesia: 11,356
- Sri Lanka: 22,911
- Maldives: 1,650
This story is written by a young Samoan woman who survived Samoa’s tsunami. Because of its length, it will be posted as a three part series. When we first heard of this young woman’s experience, we contacted her to see if she would be willing to share her story with our readers, in her own words. Her name is Steph. Here’s an excerpt from what she wrote to us in which she stresses the need to hear other people’s stories:
Other stories are more miraculous than mine but I’m thankful I have somewhere to voice what happened where others cannot, and believe me, there are other stories from that disaster that I hopefully will be told to the world. God bless. Steph
In honour of all the dead, the victims, and survivors of Samoa and Tonga’s Tsunami.
By Steph Fa’amatala
This story is dedicated to Kenape the boy who held onto me.
My mother, my son and myself all travelled to Western Samoa on the 19th September 2009. We were heading to a village in Saanapu Tai on Upolu Island, where most of my mother’s family lived.
On the Tuesday 29th September 2009, between 6:30 to 7:30 in the morning, the earthquake struck. As the earth continued to tremble, my mother, my aunties, and all the elderly ladies were trying to get us kids out of bed, and out of the house, using those held samoan- made brooms, known as salu lima.
Photo frames were falling off the walls, flower necklaces, pictures, stereo and TV, all falling off. The computer fell off its table. Our suitcases fell off the tables it was on. Chairs were falling over backwards.
Us elder kids grabbed the little ones and tried to run out of the house. It was difficult as the ground was shaking so bad that you could not even walk straight. Everything was smashing all around us. The little ones were crying. The elders were screaming from outside to get out. The older boys were carrying the elderly up behind the houses and huts towards the hills and mountains. The little kids who were all dressed for school, were running up the hill, laughing, happy thinking, this is a game.
I grabbed my mother’s bag, and our passports, that were in our suitcases. I looked around and everyone was just standing around talking about what just happened. My mother and her sisters, were just telling us to run for the hills and to get away from the houses.
We started moving towards the hills but the majority of the villagers were still standing around wondering what happened … ( as Samoans sometimes do,) when the minister drove past in his car in a hurry and screamed that a tsunami was coming.
Everyone was for their own self after that. We were running but it was hard to run up the hill. I was wearing se’evae kosokoso (sandals), and the grass was high, the bushes were thick, the trees and shrubs were sharp but the loud explosion was what kept us going. It was an explosion like a bomb had been set off. Then there was a noise like a rushing sound only louder. Little did we know, as we were rushing up that hill, that the sound was the waves coming towards us.
Someone pushes me upwards and forwards. I’m pushing a neighbour’s child up the hill and pulling my cousin with me. I look far up ahead and see my mother crying and looking out towards the ocean behind me. I hear children screaming. The older boys are yelling:
Faakope le kamo’e la ua sau le galu! (“Run faster the wave is coming!”), kamomo’e! (“Run”).
I turn quickly only to see the house that we slept in half an hour before look so tiny against the big waves. It was a sight that i’ll never forget for the rest of my life. I look towards the bottom of the hill. There are still people coming…I knew that they might not make it.
I prayed and I cried. I knew what was coming and that some of us might not make it. I was shocked.
I see a man hold a woman to a tree and then throws himself around her and pushes her into the tree. I see men holding onto each other and holding onto fences that were the entrance to the hill. I knew I had to run but I couldn’t stop watching.
Someone slaps me on the head and screams, Aikae Kamoe! (S***t, run!”). It was my older cousin. He had already taken the kids off me and had ran straight pass me. I don’t remember much after that, but I knew that I had just keep going.
This is part of an ongoing series on American Samoa post-tsunami and its disaster preparedness. In October, CNN broadcast a damning report on American Samoa’s misuse of federal funds intended for tsunami preparedness. Close to $23 million worth of funds to help the citizens.
On Tuesday 29th September 2009, in the early hours of the morning, an 8.3 magnitude earthquake struck the islands of American Samoa, Samoa and the Tongan island of Niuatoputapu. That earthquake triggered a destructive tsunami that killed close to 200 people on the official death count across all three islands. American Samoa’s official death toll, although no casualty list released, states 34 died; Samoa released an official casualty list of more than 140 dead including at least 70 children no older than 11 years old; Niuatoputapu lost 9 people including a child and an infant.
There was no island-wide emergency tsunami siren on that horrific day. America Samoa, though not releasing a casualty list citing patient privacy laws, state that 34 lives were lost.
The loss of lives on American Samoa prompted CNN to ask questions about where the millions of dollars of disaster preparedness . Those misused funds were inapprorpriately drawn down by the Treasurer of American Samoa, and the Governor’s Authorised Representative(GAR). They continually ignored express direction from both the US Administration and Ala’ilima to return funds to the homeland security budget.
One of the key players, who has perhaps displayed a degree of negligence in this tragedy, is American Samoa Telecommunications Agency. Despite signing a Memorandum of Understanding with American Homeland Security, prior to funds being frozen, they did not buy let alone install the island-wide emergency tsunami siren. Yet official records show in this box that they signed a document but failed to carry it out.
Below are the final installation of responses between Governor Tulafono’s Cabinet and the former Homeland Security Director reveal a wide difference between each one’s understanding and comprehension of the issues involved, and exactly what happened or didn’t happen.
GOVERNOR/SALA: On matters related to the sirens, Sala said that when he came on board, he found evidence of a study which had been done for an island-wide siren system. He agreed with the governor’s remarks to CNN that “it was only a study.”
AlA’ILIMA: This was way more than a study. The Territorial Office of Homeland Security had already entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with American Samoa Telecommunications Authority (ASTCA) in May 2006 to purchase and install the sirens…In the memorandum it was clearly stated that the installation of the sirens was a top priority for the American Samoa Government and DHS funding was approved for the project before my termination.
GOVERNOR/SALA:A facilities manager at American Samoa Telco, who asked not to be identified, verified that it did order one siren, based on a survey done in 2006. “To date, ASTCA has not been paid for the one siren which was ordered for a test, he said. A full warning system was never delivered, per the ASTCA official.
AlA’ILIMA:Mr. Sala has obviously not read the Memorandum of Understanding. This was recognized as a top priority matter for the American Samoa Government and American Samoa Telecommunications Authority obligated itself to finance and install the sirens and then to seek reimbursement. Given that the Memorandum…was signed before the freezing of the funds, American Samoa Telco as an independent government agency could have followed the agreement, installed the sirens and then sought the contract reimbursement.
GOVERNOR/SALA: The Emergency Alert System is a separate matter. “We have the emergency alarm system, continued Sala, but NOAA was unable to deliver the EAS warning system equipment in a timely manner, after $250,000 had been advanced to them in 2004 to deliver the product.
AlA’ILIMA:As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Sala does not understand the development and integration of the Emergency Alert Systems. He also does not comprehend the problems we were working through with NOAA. The federal Department of Homeland Security was concerned about using the territory’s homeland security funds to buy NOAA equipment because NOAA, as a federal agency, had its own separate funding for homeland security. American Samoa, however, did not have an existing alert system like the individual US states already had before 9/11 with their own tie in to NOAA.
If we were to make the connection, we needed to pay for the equipment and give it to NOAA. This was the basis of our Memorandum of Understanding with NOAA. I am pleased to hear that FEMA recently agreed that such a system was warranted and that the NOAA option we invested into was the most cost effective alternative .This was a manageable federal issue but it required someone who understood the problem, which clearly Mr. Sala did not and apparently still does not after two and a half years on the job.
No response from Governor Tulafono or his Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Langford. FEMA, after initially posting a comment on the website which we replied with a request to correct our stories if need be, have not responded further. Ongoing silence from US agencies responsible for federal funding in American Samoa.
We will continue to follow this story and keep you posted on any developments.
Photos taken by Malia Tu’ai Manuleleua and Pastor Ron Westwood
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.
PEW writer Malia Tua’i Manuleleua 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.
In the photos are a mix of volunteers working on the South Coast of Upolu, including an Air New Zealand pilot(he’s wearing a black T-shirt with white koru design), who volunteered during his rest break.
There are also photos of the following: local staff at Samoa’s National Hospital in the ward of tsunami survivors; staff at Disaster Management Office showing crops and checking through goods received and distributed; Village of Saleaaumua: Malia interviewing an elederly gentleman on his needs; a picture of a swamp where five people lost their lives; a village mechanic and his boys helping a stranger/volunteer to get his car back on the road after the axle broke.
Eulogy: Tuifeamalo Tuatagaloa Annandale
Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi,
29 September 2009
I was hesitant to talk last night because I was aware of Tui’s discomfort with politics, politicians and status. My reservation was allayed when Tuatagaloa asked me after the service to say something this morning. I decided to speak because I felt that his request was also hers.
Nothing becomes Tui more than the manner of her leaving. As Carol, said last night, in this tragedy she put the safety of her mother and Joe before her own – a gesture underlining selflessness and humility.
Her family admits that her funeral was carefully planned and today one senses that she’s still very much in command. She has orchestrated the time and space: the order of the rituals, liturgies and testimonies. The programme was and is: the funeral within twenty four hours of death; a quiet family service at 8pm; a funeral service at Tanumapua at 5.30am; and her burial at Siusega. All this is metaphor for moving on lest we dwell too long on death and tragedy – a salutary lesson not only for our family but also for a grieving nation.
As the wife of Tuatagaloa, she is entitled to the protocols, rituals and conventions befitting the funeral of the wife of a Falealili grandee. This includes a funeral service at the official residence of Tuatagaloa in Poutasi. But, in opting for less fanfare, Tui was and is claiming space: space for privacy.
She wanted a funeral where the ambiance would be markedly different in tone and context; she simply wanted to move on with grace. Whereas she became the mainstay of the Poutasi hierarchy, in the end she preferred a quiet and private funeral.
Her outstanding gift to us was the example of how she eased her way with finesse and aplomb through the different corridors of Samoan society. She would reincarnate herself many times, sometimes all in the same day. One moment she could be entrepreneur, the next a chair of a charitable organization, or Board member of an art or culture group, or a lead person in the village women’s committee, or a delegate to an annual Malua EFKS Fono tele.
All this achieved with quiet wit, thoughtfulness and grace. Through this she brought people from different persuasions and cultures together. This is high achievement.
She saw the Sinalei staff not as workers or employees to be bullied or put down but as human beings that you need to work in partnership with. She did not pretend to a knowledge or expertise that she did not have. She was quite comfortable in learning from others or from books. She was successful in the village because she had the common touch; she understood people and was humble and modest.
How did she do it? Through an innate sense of humility. Whether she knew it or not, her humility gave her an uncanny insight into what the Bible refers to in Ecclesiastes as the “vanity of vanities”.
Tui was humble yet not meek. She sought and celebrated simplicity which was not simple because of the allusions to metaphor and nuance. She was most accommodating and alluring when she stood firm on what she believed to be principle.
Tui was a deeply spiritual person. For her, God was not distant and formidable; God was always present and an integral part of loving. He was present when she planted flowers, when they sprouted, budded, blossomed, bloomed and withered. He was present in her love of animals, especially in her love for her dogs. He was truly present for her when the sun rose and set. He was present when she loved Joe, her family, friends and especially the disadvantaged. He was present when she and Joe prayed in the morning and in the evening.
Knowing her, she would have prayed for the last time for the safety of Joe, her mother Anna and Tafa her mother’s nurse. I believe God heard and heeded her prayer.
If I’m struggling to capture the essence of Tui, then I invite you to take a good look at her face, her glow, her gentle smile and her sense of inner peace. That is her legacy.
I loved Tui dearly for a very simple reason: she loved Joe, and because of this love, Joe and her family and all who came in contact with her became better people.
Editor’s Note: We posted Tui Annandale eulogy earlier as part of a collection of tributes. This time, however, it is being reposted on its own. Among the many memories of this humble lady of Samoa, Tui possibly first came to national attention as the very first Miss Samoa beauty queen.
Update: To watch click here
New Zealand’s TV3 Campbell Live’s team, including host John Campbell, will be returning to Samoa to broadcast a Christmas special on Saturday 12th December. Their location: Taufua Beach Fales at the village of Lalomanu. It was one of the South Coast villages hardest hit by the tsunami of Tuesday 29th September.
It promises to be a special day, especially for the children we hope. They say there’ll be lots of laughter, music and special guests. There’s expected to be a local choir, and as we can expect from Samoa, it will be sprinkled with genuine Samoan hospitality and alofa.To make the day even more exciting, they’re giving away Christmas gift packs. They’ve asked the Samoan Observer, a local Samoan newspaper, to help find those families deserving of these gift packs. That’s a tough call, we say. Any family that has survived the grief and trauma of those horrid days is deserving. That’s our verdict.
They’re hoping for as many locals as possible to come and share the day. That won’t be hard to do at all. It kicks off at 10am. We encourage you to nominate a family in Samoa for one of those Christmas gift packs. Make somebody’s day.
TV3 Campbell Live flew to Samoa on the afternoon of the tsunami. Host John Campbell along with reporters Mihingarangi Forbes were on the ground in Samoa, and briefly in American Samoa, on the first few days. TV3 News presenter Mike McRoberts and reporter Mike M. continued to report from Lalomanu for days after the fact.
Campbell Live is a half-hour magazine current affairs show screening Mon to Fridays at 7pm and can be viewed online at http://www.tv3.co.nz.
Habitat for Humanity New Zealand (HFHNZ) has been transparent about this process keeping people informed. pacificEyeWitness.org has also spoken directly to the Habitat team in NZ co-ordinating the Samoa-New Zealand partnership .
The Government of Samoa are funding the rebuilding of fales thanks to aid of $20 million tala (Samoan currency) from AusAid and NZ Aid, according to Habitat for Humanity NZ’s understanding. AusAid and NZAid are the foreign aid arm of the New Zealand and Australian Governments, respectively. That aid funding is reportedly “tagged” with a specific requirement that all building materials be purchased locally within Samoa, to stimulate the local economy instead of hurting it by importing so many materials from abroad.
Habitat for Humanity NZ say, however, that “any donated (free of charge) building materials are …welcomed from other countries.”
HFHNZ is supplying the tools and equipment to facilitate the rebuilding programme, both at the HRC and on house sites, as well as the labour from hundreds of Kiwi volunteers.
We are also funding what we see as “gaps” in the costing provided by the Samoan Government of each Fale. There is no allowance, for instance, for site preparation.
To this HFHNZ is funding about 10% of each Fale cost, and public donations towards this are still being sought.
Habitat for Humanity NZ.
Over an 8 month period (November 2009 to June 2010) we will need to complete 2 Fale per working day or 10 per week, to complete our 350 Fale.
This will not happen overnight as we are still shipping equipment (digger and vehicles and tools) from New Zealand, and we will have to “ramp up” our construction programme progressively based on people, equipment and funding provision. We estimate it could require between 400 to 600 Kiwi volunteers over that time frame or roughly 40 to 50 volunteers in Samoa at any one time.
This means we will need 200 to 300 tradespersons, plus at least 150 Handymen, plus another 50 to 150 Unskilled Volunteers.
Initially (Nov & Dec 2009) we may only be able to send teams of 10 volunteers per week whilst we “ramp up” the construction programme.
“Volunteers Need to Be Willing to ‘Rough It’”
Volunteers need to be reasonably fit and healthy. Habitat say accommodation will be at the local church hall at the village of Lepa on a hill overlooking the beach where many homes were destroyed. Sleeping on concrete floors with mattresses. All showers are cold water only. The local Samoan villagers will do all the cooking for all volunteers. There is no work on weekends, particularly Sunday.
An additional ablution block (extra showers and toilets) has now been completed by the first team of Kiwi builders that were in Lepa in early November.
Arrangements are fairly basic, with mattresses on the floor. Please take your own sheets, pillow, towels, and mosquito net.
If any Volunteer wishes to stay at a Hotel in Apia on the weekend, this will be at their personal cost and is not included in the HFHNZ Volunteer Cost.
Meals will be provided in the Church Hall.
Update:Samoa & Habitat for Humanity NZ Volunteers Complete Two Fales for Tsunami Affected South Coast.Posted: November 18, 2009
As part of a professional body named Resilient Organisations Group, New Zealand engineer Regan Potangaroa led a team of volunteers from the University of Auckland, Engineers without Boarders, and South Pacific Engineers to support the disaster response and recovery effort in Samoa following the recent earthquake-triggered tsunami of Tues 29th September. It destroyed and devastated the South Coast villages of Upolu Samoa, American Samoa and Niuatoputapu with the official death toll close to 200.
By Danelle Clayton
A group of University of Auckland engineers who visited Samoa to assess reconstruction needs after the tsunami say it could take up to six years for the nation to fully recover.
The findings from the Resilient Organisations Group, based at the Faculty of Engineering, were presented at The University of Auckland on Monday night (9 November). The presentation covered the impact of the recent tsunami on Samoa and opportunities for future research and assistance.
The group was also concerned with the social impacts of the tsunami. They conducted a baseline quality of life survey to help them monitor how villagers were coping. They found high incidences of depression and anxiety, particularly among men, and those in the 40-49 age bracket.
The Resilient Organisations Group, who toured the South-easterrn parts of Upolu in mid-October to survey tsunami damage, is made up of a group of six academics, PhD and undergraduate engineering students from University of Auckland, Engineers Without Borders and South Pacific Engineers.
Among them was third year Samoan engineering student, Natalia Palamo, who helped the group make connections on the island. “You really don’t understand how bad the damage is until you see it for yourself. It was much worse than I expected,” Natalia said.
Dr Regan Potangaroa, who led the group, described a “scorched” landscape in the worst affected areas, with all buildings and trees wiped out. He said a key observation was many villagers were undecided on whether they would “stay or go”, and that could cause significant complications to the recovery effort.
“If you don’t know where people are going to be, then how can you know where to rebuild facilities like schools. Nobody has thought about that yet,” said Regan who is based at Unitec as an Associate Professor at the School of Architecture.
The group has made design recommendations on how to quickly rebuild fales in time for the cyclone season, using prefabrication methods. They also want to develop user manuals so future modifications can be made to the fale design, and are looking at the design of low-cost early warning systems for earthquakes and tsunamis. They also recommended coastal villages identify clear escape paths.
Regan says the research is not just about helping Samoa, but using the knowledge from the tragedy to better respond to any future disaster in the Pacific region.
He emphasised New Zealand’s special relationship with Samoa and acknowledged the hospitality he was given by the Samoan Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, the Institute of Professional Engineers Samoa, and the National University of Samoa, during the visit.
The group plans to return to Samoa in the New Year.
Editor’s Note: Resilient Organisations (ResOrgs) is a multi-disciplinary team of 17 researchers and practitioners that is New Zealand based and with global reach. A collaboration between top New Zealand research Universities and key industry players, ResOrgs is funded by the NZ Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and supported by industry partners and advisors.
Among the team who went to Samoa, James Rotimi, Kelvin Zuo and James Beckett are postgraduate students researching post-disaster reconstruction issues as part of the Resilient Organisations research programme.
Veronica Maka, a graduate from the University Auckland’s Faculty of Engineering, now works for engineering firm GHD. As a university student, she was president of the South Pacific Indigenous Engineering Society (SPIES).
Source: Resilient Organisations