Scientists Learn From Panicked Tweets After An Earthquake

agu2009

twitterquakes

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.

To read more

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Honouring Samoa: A Young Survivor Pays Tribute to the Village Boy Who Helped Her

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=samoa+tsunami&iid=6700875″ src=”e/c/0/3/Further_Quake_Hits_a0cc.jpg?adImageId=8208380&imageId=6700875″ width=”500″ height=”333″ /] Read the rest of this entry »


Auckland University Staff & Students Donations Fill Up Two Container Loads for Lalomanu

[tweetmeme]By Danelle Clayton

Lalomanu village in Samoa, which was devastated by the September tsunami, has received two container loads of donated supplies from staff and students of The University of Auckland.

Building supplies, food, kitchen utensils, bedding, medicine and toiletries were collected in a shipping container at the Faculty of Education in Epsom, with donations also sent from the University’s city campus and some schools.

Dean of the Faculty of Education, Associate Professor Graeme Aitken, was moved to assist Lalomanu after speaking to Ben Taufua shortly after the tragedy. Ben, from Lalomanu, is a member of the Pasifika Education Advisory Group, which advises the Faculty on Pacific matters. He lost thirteen members of his family to the tsunami.

“It was a very humbling experience to talk to someone who has lost so much,” Dr Aitken says.

The Faculty of Education’s Associate Dean Pasifika, Dr Meaola Toloa, says while the goods will assist with basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing, there is still much to be done before the village can fully recover.

“It will make a difference in the meantime but we need to keep an open mind that there is still work to be done on sustaining life for the long term,” Dr Toloa says. She and Dr Aitken led a group from the Faculty of Education to visit the village in November to see the devastation and offer support to villagers.

“Normally there would be lots of people around but the beach was barren and deserted with everything stripped. Down on the beach we saw just one survivor with his head bandaged, and we saw very few children. The fact we couldn’t locate many people to talk to just shows how bad it is.”

With the village virtually destroyed, staff and students were asked to donate practical goods to help Lalomanu rebuild. Many included a personal note and extras like children’s toys, crayons and colouring books. An empty shipping container placed on the front lawn of the Faculty’s Epsom Campus was quickly filled, and a second was made available to take extra goods.

Dr Toloa expressed her thanks on behalf of the staff and students in the Faculty who have lost close family members. The Faculty has also made allowances for its large numbers of Samoan students, some of whom interrupted their studies to return to Samoa to support their families.

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Silence from Governor’s Office; Former Head of US Insular Affairs Backs Ala’ilima Stance on CNN

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=pacific+islands&iid=6810578″ src=”7/a/d/8/Obama_signs_order_deda.JPG?adImageId=7962503&imageId=6810578″ width=”500″ height=”342″ /]
U.S. President Barack Obama greets guests after he signed an executive order restoring the White House Advisory Commission and Inter-agency Working Group to address issues concerning the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the East Room of the White House in Washington on October 14, 2009.
UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg Photo via Newscom.
Content © 2009 Newscom All rights reserved.

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The former head of US Insular Affairs, the department which oversaw American Samoa, is backing whistleblower Lei’ataualesa Birdsall V. Ala’ilima.  Until 2007, Ala’ilima served as the head of American Samoa’s Homeland Security.

In a private email to Ala’ilima, sent after seeing the CNN investigation which blew the lid on American Samoan government corruption, David Cohen, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, wrote the following:

Subject: CNN Report

Leiataua,

Hope you’re well.  Good to see you, even if only on TV.  That CNN report was something.  I hope that this is an opportunity for you to vindicate yourself once and for all.  It was always very frustrating that the folks at DHS(Department of Homeland Security), who knew the real deal, could only defend you in private.  What a tragic mess that so many deaths could have been prevented.

Take care,

David

Meanwhile, Ala’ilima, who has a son and daughter-in-law about to be deployed to Afghanistan, is currently embroiled in  legal action against the American Samoan Government after he was fired as Homeland Security Director in 2007.  His departure from the Office  is one of the issues of contention between Ala’ilima and the government who deny that he was ever fired. Interestingly, whatever you call it, it happened soon after Ala’ilima blew the whistle on the Treasurer and Lieutenant Governor’s improper drawdown of  homeland security funding.  That whistleblowing by Ala’ilima resulted in federal funds being frozen.  To read related email, click here.

As reported in a previous story, those funds, which American Samoa Homeland Security never saw, was  specifically earmarked  for tsunami preparedness. That included an island-wide emergency tsunami siren system. American Samoa Homeland Security, however, never received the funds.

Official records – correspondence between Governor Togiola Tulafono, US Department of Homeland Security and American Samoa Homeland Security – highlight repeated, but failed, efforts by the US Adminstration to get American Samoa’s Treasurer and Lieutenant Governor to return funds to homeland security. But they ignored the command from their funders. And those funds were never restored to homeland security.

As a result, federal funds for disaster preparedness were frozen. No island-wide emergency tsunami siren was ever installed on American Samoa. Documents cited – such as testing results, and agreements to purchase and install the sirens – show the work was  in the pipeline. Then on Tuesday 29th September, the worst case scenario, a destructive tsunami destroyed villages in American Samoa killing 34 people, according to the official count. That catastrophic event has forever changed the landscape of the islands and also the hearts of those who lost loved ones, lost their homes and lost their livelihoods.

In a CNN interview aired in October, the Governor denied any knowledge of a viable plan for the tsunami plan.

“There was a study, I believe, but never a plan for a system,” the governor said. “I was trying to get verification of what happened to that system, but I could not get the definite information.”

We have contacted Governor Tulafono, the Governor’s Representative Evelyn Langford, and the current Homeland Security Director Mike Sala for further comment. No response.

Despite their silence, official records – and the fabricated story sent to us by Sala on behalf of  Governor Tulafono– paint a strong picture of an American Samoan administration who acts above the law.

Ala’ilima, however, has sent us a reply and we post his response in full below. The only editing applied to his response below is adding subheadings and editor’s notes:

Lei’ataualesa Birdsall V. Ala’ilima
Former head of American Samoa’s Homeland Security

Statement to PEW(pacificEyeWitness.org)

Federal grant funds deposited in the American Samoa Government (ASG) treasury general fund are used to pay for unauthorized ASG expenses. This practice puts all federal projects in jeopardy as treasury struggles to cover up over inflated payrolls and mismanaged programs. This practice is well documented in independent audit reports over the past two decades.

Generally, ASG’s response to these critical audit findings is to acknowledge the issues and claim to be working towards resolution but in reality nothing changes.

US Agencies Turn A Blind Eye  to Corruption American Samoa

Federal agencies have generally turned a blind eye to these concerns primarily because American Samoa ’s award amounts are insignificant in the overall scheme of things and the cost associated with enhanced monitoring is deemed too high to warrant the expenditure for individual agency programs. Unfortunately federal agencies adopting this excuse fail to carry out their fiduciary responsibility to the American tax payer and by sheer negligence perpetuate the mismanagement and corrupt practices in the territory at all government levels.

Bribery:  A Standard Government Business Practice

Emboldened by the lack of transparency or repercussions, officials would often accede to subtle and overt acts of bribery as a standard government business practice. The question “what’s in it for me?” became a motto for such unsavory characters in authority which then infects those who serve below them. It goes without saying that once an individual succumbs to these corrupt practices they are “hooked” into a vicious cycle and subject to further exploitation by those with knowledge. Unchecked, unethical individuals caught up in this cycle freely abuse their authority to enrich and/or advance themselves in government without regard to either the law or the public interest they are sworn to serve.

Abuse of Power: Using “FBI” Name to Secure False Stop Order & False Media Statement

Mr. Mike Sala, a senior law enforcement/security official in the current administration is a classic case in point.  He used the name of the FBI to secure a false “stop order” to keep me from flying off island as all these events were unfolding.  He violated a fundamental constitutional right and then issued a false statement to the media. Yet nothing has been done to hold him responsible.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our own experience dealing with Mike Sala, the American Samoa Homeland Security Director who replaced Ala’ilima, supports what Ala’ilima states here. Sala lied to our media outlet in official correspondence sending us a story he dishonestly claimed was written and published by Samoa News. We did not publish the story once we verified that he was lying. When we emailed back to Sala, Governor Tulafono and Evelyn Langford, as to why they lied, no response at all.


Lack of Accountability of People in Authority

Again, the overarching problem here is that people in authority are not held accountable for their actions. In a small tight knit community, it’s easy to understand why corruption readily infects all levels of the administration, legislature and to some extent the local judicial system. There must be consistent and effective program oversight. In this environment, and without an effective system of checks and balances in place, one can appreciate the challenges facing the well intentioned federal programs.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This issue of accountability has also been noted by our outlet. We have found the Governor’s office staff including its Communications Director Jacinta Galeai, and the Cabinet, refusing to respond to our recent questions.


Creating A Separate Account

During my tenure with Public Works we had similar financial issues with Federal Highway (FHWA) accounts in the general funds. DPW and FHWA agreed to establish a separate fund account with Bank of Hawaii to channel highway grants. To this day, this system has worked well and FHWA road projects no longer languish in jeopardy for lack of timely payments to contractors. Engineers can now focus on the technical challenges of projects and not become embroiled in resolving financial issues.

I recommended to the governor to establish a similar account specifically for DHS grant funds.

This was one of the recommendations US DHS references in their email to the governor dated January 19, 2007 concerning the reason for the funding suspension. Unfortunately, the governor did not support this recommendation (and other key recommendations to enhance accountability) or see it as an avenue to correct the problem within treasury.

Sala’s Dishonest Work In Action

Instead, he chose to place the responsibility for emergency preparedness under Mr. Sala who then “fired” the entire TOHS staff blaming them for the mismanagement of the DHS funds. By doing this, Mr. Sala removed all persons with knowledge of both emergency preparedness and  he took control of all DHS funding to the territory.

In addition to the DHS letter to the governor that explains the reason for funding suspension, it should be noted that Mr. Sala and treasury had 90 days to respond to a preliminary audit report that came out just prior to my termination. To this day they have still not submitted an official audit response. This led to an extension of the federal suspension.

During my tenure I had a very good working relationship with personnel from the US DHS. We were working through concerns that arose because of issues unique to our territory. Mr. Sala got rid of all the dedicated employees who were intimately familiar with the program. He points to the audit review as his rationale for terminating my employment, but he fails to point out that the findings were preliminary in nature and that he himself has never responded to the audit. Obviously, it is in his interest to point to specific audit findings to justify his actions.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Official correspondence cited support Ala’ilima’s statement on who was responsible for the misuse of homeland security funds. Those funds never reached Ala’ilima’s department. Sala’s actions to terminate the homeland security employees is at odds with the official correspondence from the Department of Homeland Security which lays the blame squarely with American Samoa Treasurer and the Lieutenant Governor. The Governor during this period was on medical leave. He was, however, kept informed. His own response reveals that he was aware of the actions taken by his office. Yet he does not question it.


Unanswered Questions:Treasury

I prepared a response to the program findings of the audit and submitted the document unofficially to DHS even after my termination. Even then I hoped that I could provide information to the US DHS which would resolve their issues. However, I could not respond to most of the financial concerns which could only be answered by treasury. Draw downs were being made without my authorization by the lieutenant governor to pay a wide variety of people not affiliated with the program in any way. The emails I have provided between DHS and the governor clearly state this. I also understand when the ASG treasury comptroller abruptly terminated his employment contract last year with ASG, he handed over to DHS and the FBI digital file copies of treasury records. It is far past time that federal agencies need to take action.

Abandoned by US Government Officials

I am certainly appreciative of the assistance the FBI provided in ensuring the safety of me and my family members until we were able to leave the territory. However, it is still a mystery to me why US DHS refused to clear up the issues and protect my reputation in this whole sordid affair. My written requests to USDHS went unanswered and I felt a strong sense of abandonment.

Given what has been revealed over the past twenty years and the growing public outrage in the territory, it is unconscionable that the federal government continues to send money to the islands to be lumped into a general fund. A simple accounting practice with specific grant monies placed in separate accounts to be used for specific purposes only would have solved virtually all of this.

If This Happened In A U.S.A State(Not A Territory)…Missing Funds…Terrorising

If this sad and tragic episode were happening in some small town in any of the fifty states I am positive there would be significantly greater exposure and outrage, and the federal government would have stepped in and clamped down on local corruption.

When you have a group of high level local government officials carrying out lawless behavior while manipulating and terrorizing a community, it becomes the responsibility of federal law enforcement and the US justice system to do something about it. For all money that has “gone missing” in the Territory, the U.S. DOJ has one relatively minor case of procurement fraud pending. That case involves allegations from over five years ago. When the federal government wants to clean up corruption or wrongdoing, it is well capable of doing so.

Whether it is mafia and gangster corruption in large cities, or civil rights violations in small towns of the South, the federal government has done significant good when motivated. Federal law enforcement bears a significant responsibility in controlling crime, particularly in matters where federal funds are involved and a contributing factor to the cause. All the more so when local law enforcement is impotent, and all the more so when thousands of innocent civilians are directly suffering. Simply stated, “Dangle candy in front of children, and they will bite and bite again until an effective parent says, “No more!” There is virtual impunity on the island. It is in many ways a lawless place.

Cancelled Hearings Highlights Lack of Accountability

Until people are held accountable in a way that directly affects them, they will continue to violate the law. The recent cancellation of the House hearings on disaster preparedness is a glaring example an administration answering to no one and the inability of local government to police itself.

Much of the corruption on island can be readily tracked through paper trails, but it takes federal resolve and commitment to see it through.  Even minimal but motivated manpower could go a long way toward effectively clamping down hard on corruption and mismanagement in the territory. Even a few agents and Assistant United States Attorneys dedicated to cleaning up the corruption could get a considerable amount done. Those involved would learn very quickly that there will be consequences for their illegal actions. These agents need to be well educated about Samoa ’s unique island culture, history and value system. Above all else, they need to be highly motivated to clean up corruption and provide the citizens a level of protection they deserve.

To continue turning a blind eye is disenfranchising the people of American Samoa of the freedoms and rights guaranteed under the United States constitution. The desperate need for the federal government to intervene is also underlined by the complete lack of commitment on the part of the Territory’s representative in Congress to do anything.

Four Key Recommendations

I would recommend four federal actions that are clearly cost effective and simple.

1.       The US Department of the Interior as the primary agency for oversight management in the territory should expand their presence in American Samoa to include a federal grants office. The office should be responsible to receive and distribute all federal grants to the territory and ensure that the uses are in compliance with appropriate federal regulations. This grants office would be empowered to seek civil recovery of grant funds from the ASG and individuals who have been found to have improperly received federal money and to refer to the federal Department of Justice information on any individuals who it believes may have engaged in criminal activity involving the misuse of federal funds.

2.       All federal grants to the territory should be conditioned to effective local and federal “whistleblower” legislation. No one should be exposed to retaliation nor should they have to sacrifice their livelihood and family’s safety when reporting fraud, waste and abuse to proper authority. A very effective part of whistle blowing legislation is a right for the whistleblower to receive compensation based on the amount saved to either the ASG or the federal government.

3.       The FBI should expand their presence in the territory to manage and investigate reported cases involving fraud, waste and abuse. Local law enforcement is highly suspect and has lost public credibility. The FBI should also train the public and ASG employees in proper reporting procedures for matters concerning fraud, waste and abuse. The US DOJ must take responsibility for aggressively investigating and prosecuting corruption and it must be done in a serious and timely fashion.

4.      The federal court system should expand their authority to prosecute and adjudicate fraud, waste and abuse cases involving federal funds in the territory.

The recommendations would certainly control corruption in the territory. I am also a realist when I say corruption in American Samoa will never be eliminated because there will always be people trying to game the system. However, we can control the distribution of funds in such a way as to hold these people accountable and minimize the ability of persons attempting to game the system to the extent that it impacts the safety and welfare of the community as it did in the recent tsunami.

Clearing A Man’s Name: Fa’amausili Pola

A lot of innocent people in Territorial Office of Homeland Security and the Territorial Emergency Management Coordinating Office (TEMCO) suffered both in their reputation and their employment because of this political charade to cover up improper actions by top government people.

Former TEMCO Director Fa’amausili Pola testified before the Senate Select Investigating Committee (SSIC) and stated truthfully that it was the Lt. Governor, his deputy director and the ASG treasurer who were responsible for the abuse of federal funds that resulted in the suspension.

The following day, Fa’amausili was arrested and charged with 101 counts of fraud. Regrettably, this courageous former Marine passed away before he had the opportunity to clear his name in court and sadly his family has not had the closure they deserve from this sordid affair. It was obvious the SSIC was not prepared to hear the truth behind the matter they were investigating. Even more tragically, people died or were injured because the overly-broad firing of trained personnel with the knowledge of the programs back in March of 2007.

This stopped the deployment of a very critical part of the warning system, the sirens and wasted significant federal investment into the territory. American Samoa needs politicians who seek the correct information to address the real problems and not just try to confuse the issues, find convenient innocent scapegoats and sweep problems under the rug. The people are not buying this anymore.

American Samoans are not second or third class citizens and we deserve a local government that responds to the needs of the people. Tragically this is not happening, and the lives of men, women, children, and elderly are affected every day. Much of this has finally gained attention because thirty four people died horrific and unnecessary deaths on September 29.

Will someone not hear their voices which cry out for justice?

Related Stories

Part 4: American Samoa Telco’s Role in Not Installing Island-Wide Tsunami
Part 3: Who Authorised Federal Funds Be Diverted Away from Tsunami Preparedness American Samoa?

Part 2: Former Homeland Security Rebutts Claims by Governor; Hearing Cancelled Again

Latest:  Whistleblower Answers Accusations From American Samoa Governor’s Office

American Samoans Respond to Cnn Report on Alleged Government Corruption
Tweets From Governor’s Supporter: John Wasko

Radio Australia Interview: Joey Cummings, General Manager, South Seas Broadcasting, American Samoa

Full Transcript: Cnn Investigative Report on American Samoa Misuse of Federal Funds
CNN Report: Part 2

CNN Report: Part 1

Breaking News: CNN Reports American Samoa Squandered Tsunami Warning Funds

Editor’s Note: After listening to the Radio Australia interview, it’s clear that both the interviewer and Cummings  either did not have access to the same official correspondence, or other official sources, to verify information provided by the Governor.  Or they choose not to refer to it. Either way, this interview does not answer the question as to why Governor  Togiola Tulafono denied knowledge of the emergency tsunami siren system.  And why, despite official correspondence, and official sources,  pointing the finger squarely at American Samoa’s Treasurer and Lieutenant Governor for the draw-down and misuse of  homeland security funds, that is never raised in the interview. Instead, this interview wrongly gives the impression that the Governor had a legitimate right to point the finger at Ala’ilima.

Quite the contrary.

Ala’ilima, from official correspondence we have cited, and other sources, make it clear that Ala’ilima was unfairly targeted, used as a scapegoat, and wrongly and deliberately fingerpointed by Governor Tulafono and his Cabinet members. That is the only conclusion we can reach from the facts presented to us. Since Ala’ilima  had himself tried to get the Governor’s Cabinet to comply and return homeland security funds,  the paper trail shows a deliberate attempt by Governor Tulafono and Sala to create a misleading impression on the role that Ala’ilima played in this.   That is, until the CNN report aired in October this year, their finger pointing, continued by the current Homeland Security Director Mike Sala, has had the unsavoury effect of silencing government critics.

We hope our coverage goes some way to helping to set the public record straight and right some wrongs deliberately  committed against the names of those targetted by people in positions of power and authority in American Samoa. That the stories we have posted so far  will give American Samoans the courage to speak up loudly and bravely to the White House Obama Administration to demand an open, transparent, and accountable government in American Samoa: for the people, by the people.

Updated 31st December 2009: This particular story, corruption in American Samoa, continues to attract the ire of John Wasko of Tutuila. His defensive comments, that ignore any questions put to him throughout our “experience” of him,  reveal a bizarre loyalty towards those who govern corruptly in Tutuila. We leave you to draw your own conclusions on John Wasko and his motives. From our position, he has consistently refused to answer questions put to him from PEW. Until Wasko does, and tells us what his connections are to the Governor and other members of the Cabinet,  we won’t be wasting any more time responding to his defensive tirades that support corruption in Tutuila.

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Tragedy Hits Former Manu Samoa Player After Daughter Dies on Sportsfield

[tweetmeme]New Zealand’s Radio NewstalkZB sports host, Joe Lose, broke this story, late  yesterday afternoon. He stated the family had requested privacy. This morning,  print media are naming the family and the young child who died. Her name is Christina, daughter of Luke Mealamu, the younger brother of All Black (NZ rubgy national team) Keven Mealamu.

Luke is a former Manu Samoa player who played for Samoa in 2000. Media reports say he  now works as a social worker in Mangere, Auckland, NZ, where he lives with his family.

Sunday-Star Times report this morning

A six-year-old girl, believed to be the niece of All Black Keven Mealamu, was crushed to death and a three-year-old boy was hurt while playing on a scrum machine at an Auckland park yesterday.

Relatives at the scene said the girl’s name was Christina and that she was the daughter of Mealamu’s younger brother Luke, who is a rugby coach. The girl was with a family group attending a touch tournament at the Tamaki Recreation Centre in Glen Innes when the accident occurred about 2.30pm. Ambulance staff said she received extensive injuries and they were unable to save her.

Another child, believed to be a three-year-old boy from the same family, was also taken to hospital with moderate injuries. Middlemore Hospital last night said the child was due to be discharged.

Mealamu was seen driving away from the park.

Last night, a babysitter at the Mealamus’ Auckland home said the grieving family was at the hospital.

to read more

pacificEyeWitness extends our deepest sympathies and condolences to Christina’s family at this time.

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Part4: American Samoa Telco Role In No Tsunami-Warning System Examined

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=american+samoa&iid=6701058″ src=”9/b/9/b/Clean_Up_Continues_0d48.jpg?adImageId=7877033&imageId=6701058″ width=”500″ height=”333″ /]

PAGO PAGO, AMERICAN SAMOA- People work to clear the rubble near the village of Nuan Seetaga following the 8.3 magnitude strong earthquake which struck on Tuesday on 29th September 2009 in Pago Pago, American Samoa. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

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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.

View this document on Scribd

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.

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Photos: Our Writer on Two Weeks Volunteering in Samoa Post-Tsunami

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.


NZ Engineers Predict Years for Samoa To Recover; High Stress & Anxiety Among Male Tsunami Survivors

NZ Engineers surveying the damage in the village of Lepa, South Coast of Upolu Samoa. At the far right (green shirt) is Dr Regan Potangaroa who led the group. Photo courtesy of University of Auckland.

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.

Engineers from the University of Auckland
[L to R] Veronica Maka, Natalia Palamo, Stuart Mitchell, James Beckett , Dr Regan Potangaroa in the village of Lepa. Photo courtesy of University of Auckland.

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.

Regan Potangaroa, Veronica Maka, Stuart Mitchell, Prime Minister of Samoa, James Beckett, Natalia Palamo and Kelvin Zuo.”]

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



Update from Samoa Deputy PM Misa Telefoni: Tourism, Media, Disaster Relief, Trade & Labour; David Tua; Adeaze; Yandall Sisters

Misa Telefoni is the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Minister of Commerce and Labour; Minister of Tourism.

STRENGTH IN ADVERSITY

By Misa Telefoni

Samoa Deputy Prime Minister MisaTelefoni Moving On

It has barely been a month since 29th September but the resilience of our Samoan people has been a beacon of light, a real anchor and the foundation of our recovery. We have buried our dead, mourned our losses, and are well on the way to complete rehabilitation. The psychological scars will linger, some memories will refuse to fade completely, but ultimately the emotional healing will be complete. It is now time  TO MOVE ON.

Socialism in Action

Government’s decision to assist with $18 thousand dollar’s worth of building materials, regardless of the cost or contents of the dwelling damaged  is commendable. The owner of an old shack or “fa’ase’e” gets a better home worth at least $18,000.  Those who could originally afford the $100,000 to $200,000 residence still get $18,000.

The decision to relocate and the process involved is best left to the individuals.  Socialism in action is commendable, social engineering is culturally unacceptable in Samoa.

Tourism Sector Starts Rebuilding

Our advisers, KVA Consult, are yet to finalise their final recommendations. For those uninsured beach fales, with Small Business Enterprise Centre (SBEC) guaranteed loans, an agreement with SBEC on how to proceed is being considered. At the nationwide meeting we called on Tuesday 13th October there was already a strong view that we needed to move on.  There were at least 300 people at the meeting – a record number since I became Tourism Minister.

Government’s move to offer $18 thousand dollars’ worth of assistance to homeowners is definitely one option for the uninsured small beach fale operators.

Strong Media Support Appreciated

Last weekend I was in Australia in Brisbane for the PACER PLUS discussions.  Australia’s Minister of Trade, the Honourable Simon Crean, was kind enough to let me announce our “VISIT SAMOA” campaign during his Press Conference, and the media response was overwhelming. We led the Sky News all night Saturday on the 24th  October, and into Sunday morning.  We made the national news Sunday on Channels 7, 9 and 10.  We were on national radio.  By Monday the 26th, we were in the print media.

In Aotearoa we made TV One News on Tuesday the 27th October.  The full interview was on TVNZ online, and we are grateful to TV3 for running it here with CEO Matatamalii’s Samoan commentary.  There has been a positive response from radio and the print media.

With the capable assistance of our Australian and New Zealand managers, Papalii Lorenzo McFarland and Fasitau Ula, we achieved over $1 million’s worth of publicity before we had aired our first commercial or put in our first print advertisement.

Cabinet approved a $500,000 marketing blitz for our main markets and we launched it in style.  The media’s response was heart warming and we have invited them back to witness the determination of our people to rebuild our tourism industry.

David Tua’s Back

Cameron did not know what hit him.  The referee should have stopped the fight earlier.  The ugly side of boxing is serious physical and mental damage is always possible. I represented government in Las Vegas when David lost the World title to Lennox Lewis on points.  He would have won that night if he was in the great form that he is in right now!

I only have two pieces of advice for David: keep doing what you’re doing and collect some promotional fees from Burger King.

We are proud of David, and congratulate him for the deserved victory and for all the dedication, sacrifice and hard work he put into this great comeback victory. Welcome back David Tua!

Decent Work  Youth Employment

We need to do a progress report on the implementation of the historic Decent Work Agreement we signed earlier this year. This was a landmark event, involving our workers, employers, government and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Tomorrow morning, Monday 2nd November at 9.30am at Sanalele Complex, we are holding a tripartite workshop with the emphasis on youth employment opportunities.

The Temporary Work Placement Programme will also be launched.  This is an excellent scheme offering 6 – 8 week holiday work for youth. Government’s role must always focus on educational opportunities, trades training, the provision of job opportunities and a stable macroeconomic environment to enable our private sector to thrive.

We thank the Chamber, Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters, National University of Samoa, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour and MYSC. We especially thank the International Labour Organisation’s Ofelia Eugenio and Elisapeta Eteuati (who are our ILO country field officers) for facilitating this important workshop.

Tsunami Relief

We all received tsunami relief with a difference last night during the Scribe inspired concert. They have raised over WS$1million and counting – thanks to all the artists including Adeaze and my Purcell cousins the Yandall sisters.  The Yandall sisters do an awesome version of my mother’s composition Farewell Samoa.  My own personal favourites are South Seas Island Dream and It is Only a Memory, but the national favourite is Can’t you see I’m Sorry.

Fulton  Hogan

It is good to have you back in Samoa Fulton Hogan. They have agreed to completely resurface and reseal the Lalomanu and the new Saleapaga roads. They were brought back to Samoa by Sua Mene from Christchurch (Commonwealth medalist and Bernice Mene’s dad) and our thanks go out to Stephen Wright and all the team at Fulton Hogan.  This is a tremendous contribution to the tsunami reconstruction effort.

Sofrana

On Wednesday the 28th October, last week we received the first 4 containers courtesy of Sofrana Unilines. There was water, building materials, gas stoves and cooking equipment, and a whole container donated from former Auckland Mayor Dick Hubbard of Hubbard’s Foods.  The children of Falealili, Aleipata, and Lepa will enjoy Aotearoa’s best breakfast cereals, among the special treats.

Best Portion of a Good Man’s Life

We are back to Wordsworth! To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, a great man slain in a previous tragedy – a tsunami of bullets Never in the history of mankind has so much been owed to so many by so few. Samoa’s appreciation goes out to all our development partners, friends, and all who have expressed alofa in our time of adversity.

The Churches have made the greatest contribution ever in our nation’s history. And it is still coming in – later this month Papaliitele Tihati and Auimatagi Cha Thompson fly in to distribute their assistance.  Rhema South Pacific (Kelly Duininck Ministries) have over $300,000 in cash and provisions.  Our special thanks to Reverend Pattie Duininck and the team at Rhema (South Pacific) Bible Training Center.

It is “that best portion of a good man’s life.  His little, nameless, unremembered acts Of kindness and of love”.  Many local lawyers will remember Adam Bell, who worked with me in the late 1980s when I was Attorney-General. He sent $1000 AUD for the Government of Samoa Tsunami Victims.  Former Manu Samoa Filipo Purcell Saena donated $5000 AUD from Samoa’s Victoria Community in Melbourne to Red Cross.  He played for Manu with another Purcell – now M.P Solamalemalo Purcell Keneti Sio.  The Allen family in Auckland, Pat and Cathy, sent $1000 NZD for Red Cross, and  $1000 NZD for an Auckland fundraiser.

We thank the volunteers, the fundraisers – Laauli Michael Jones, Tuigamala Vaaiga Tuigamala, David Tua, just to name a few.  The tireless efforts of Teleiai Edwin Puni from that great village Samatau.

You are too many to name, but you have seen our peoples’ gratitude in their smiling faces.  You have helped the nation’s healing with your great kindness.

Lest we forget – we thank all our partners in development – governments, international agencies, the NGOs such as Red Cross, and of course our own Disaster Management Office.

Ua malie toa, ua malo tau.

Ua faamao fai o le faiva.

Faafetai, Faafetai, Faafetai tele lava.

Samoa Tourism Exchange

Last Friday 3oth October, we held a very successful Tourism Conference.  Reverend Pattie Duininck gave us a great spiritual foundation with an inspired invocation.  Henry Hunkin’s beautiful voice and  Gwendolyn Tuaitanu’ s great dancing of the taualuga. The tourism industry gave us their usual great support: Pulepule Steve Young (President), Nynette Sass (CEO) and many Samoa Hotel Association members who attended.

We were all particularly impressed with inspirational speeches by Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale of Sinalei Reef Resort, Koroseta Legalo Faofao Beach Fales in Saleapaga, and Sili Apelu of Taufua Beach Fales in Lalomanu.

We thank Tony Everitt of South Pacific Tourism Organisation who played a leading role as commentator and facilitator.  Our overseas speakers included Chris Flynn of Pacific Asia Travel Association, Paul Yeo CEO of Travel Agents Association of New Zealand, and Donna Meredith of Keystone Corporate Positioning.

Media relations involve both the message (and its timing / positioning) and the messenger.  Successful publicity campaigns require a lot of hard work and determination.

But at the end of the day – it comes down to us Samoa.  From the string band at Faleolo Airport, to the smiling faces at hotel receptions.  Our visitors need our warm alofa and must enjoy “The Time of Their Lives” during their holidays in Paradise.

Dedication

This column began by recognizing and paying tribute to, the resilience of our Samoan people.

We are a loving people – full of alofa.

But never in our wildest dreams did we expect such a response.  This flood of goodwill and generosity.

Jesus said it is much more blessed to give them to receive – but He also gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan.

What else can we say – as a nation, as a people?

To you all, each and every one of you.  Every government, person, company and organization.

We say –

Thank you.

We pray God blesses you all, always.

Have a happy and blessed November Samoa – another year has almost come and gone, and Christmas promises new hope, love and happiness and prosperity.

God Bless you all

Misa Telefoni


Engineers To Assist in Samoa

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Media Release

[tweetmeme]6 November 2009

Engineers to assist in Samoa

The findings from a trip to assess reconstruction needs in Samoa by a group of University of Auckland engineers will be presented at a Dean’s Lecture on Monday, 9 November.

The lecture, titled ‘The impact of the recent tsunami on Samoa and the opportunity for research and assistance’, will explore ways engineers can support the disaster response.

Six volunteers from the Faculty of Engineering visited Samoa in mid-October to assess damage to south-eastern parts of Upolu. They also met with the Samoan Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, the Institute of Professional Engineers Samoa, and the National University of Samoa, to discuss ways to assist with recovery and rebuilding. The volunteers included engineering academics, and undergraduate and PhD students.

“The reconstruction is going to be tougher then people expect,” says Stuart Mitchell, an engineer at The University’s Light Metals Research Centre. “The flat sandy beaches on the southern coast of Upolu Island, the main island of Samoa, while being popular as resort locations also meant the tsunami caused extensive damage. People are now relocating away from the coast and this will cause significant complications in the recovery effort,” Stuart says. “New Zealand enjoys a special relationship with Samoa and we wanted to see what we could do as academics and engineers to assist the Samoan people in a time of need.”

The team was made up of members of the Resilient Organisations Group, SPPEEx (South Pacific Professional Engineers for Excellence), and SPIES (South Pacific Indigenous Engineering Students), all based at the Faculty of Engineering. An engineering graduate from consulting firm GHD was also involved. Many of the researchers are studying post-disaster reconstruction at the University.

The seminar will present the findings from the field trip and will explore ways Faculty of Engineering expertise can be combined with the cultural depth of SPIES and SPPEEx to complement the recovery phase in Samoa. Projects will focus on ways to speed up the rebuilding of housing and infrastructure, guidelines to equip locals with the knowledge to rebuild, and help with early warning systems for earthquakes and tsunamis.

Dr Regan Potangaroa from Unitec travelled with the team, and will deliver the lecture.

Faculty of Engineering Dean’s Lecture

Hosted by Dean of Engineering Professor Michael Davies

Monday 9 November at 6 pm

Fale Pasifika

20 Wynyard Street

The University Auckland

Free entry, all welcome.

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