Supplies collected for Samoa disaster relief

September 30, 2009 6:27:30 PM PDT
At least four tsunamis, triggered by the magnitude eight earthquake, flattened villages and swept cars and people out to sea on both islands. Over 100 people have died. The Samoa Red Cross estimates that 15,000 people were affected by the tsunamis that sent water rushing a mile inland.

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Water service has been restored to many villages, but power is still out in most areas -- severely limiting communication. President Obama has declared a major disaster for American Samoa, which is a U.S. territory. The declaration will speed up relief efforts to the island of 65,000 people.

Worried friends and relatives in the Bay Area are waiting to hear from their loved ones in the quake zones. In the meantime, volunteers are rushing to gather relief supplies and donations.

Click here to see ABC7's complete list of ways you can donate to the South Pacific earthquake relief.

In Oakland SF Enterprises is the organization that is taking the donated materials from the Bay Area and putting it on a ship that will leave for Samoa on Saturday.

As bad as the video looks, the conditions in American and Western Samoa are even worse after, not one, but two natural calamities. First, came the earthquake at 8.0 on the Richter scale. Then, a series of four tsunami waves 15-20 feet high moving a mile and a half inland, and sucking much of it back to sea.

This disaster happened in one of the world's most remote, civilized places, four thousand miles away. Friends and family are still waiting for word.

"It doesn't look like Samoa. Our territory, our island of Samoa, has been crushed by this disaster," said Ben Afisvalu, a Samoan Christian Minister.

In Fairfield, Afisvalu was worried about his brother, but filled his time with action. His church is collecting food and supplies to ship back home as soon as possible.

Isabella Rogers came from davis to write a check. "This is a human issue and we could all be struck with this at any given time. I think if we don't give to one another, I don't know how mankind can survive," said Rogers.

It will take at least two weeks for any supplies to arrive by sea. SF Enterprises, which ships to the region, spent today negotiating space for a departure on Saturday.

"By Saturday I anticipate at least a couple of containers full," said Lia Langi-Pahulu from SF Enterprises.

By then, we may know more about the needs, from a FEMA management team, which deployed from Oakland before dawn. Samoa is so far away that they are still en route.

"As soon as we get to Honolulu, we lay over for two hours. From there, it's another 10 hours, I believe?" said Casey DeShong with FEMA.

The ship is behind schedule, that allows more time to get supplies onto it, if people can gather it and get it on the dock in time for loading. They say they'll be working late every night until 7 p.m. ready to receive supplies.

Click here to see ABC7's complete list of ways you can donate to the South Pacific earthquake relief.

Sidenote:
Many wonder what the difference is between Samoa and American Samoa.

The western islands belonged to Germany until after World War I, when New Zealand took over. They were granted independence in 1962, becoming the first sovereign Polynesian nation.

The two eastern islands have been a U.S. territory since 1899. A U.S. naval base has been there since 1900.

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