Locals provide tsunami relief from afar

October 4, 2009 1:54:54 PM PDT
The U.S. rushed emergency supplies to Samoa and American Samoa over the weekend to help survivors of the deadly tsunami.

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More than 165 people were killed on the islands and now there are new fears about an outbreak of disease like gastroenteritis. In the meantime, Samoa is planning a mass burial for the victims on Tuesday. Help is on the way from around the world including the Bay Area.

A ship carrying donations will be heading to the Samoan Islands Monday. It will take about two weeks to get there. That is not as quick as some would like, but relief agencies say donations are needed for the short and long term.

Donations are still pouring in. At SF Enterprises in Oakland, workers at a freight company are accepting goods from all over the Bay Area. Tina Lewis likes the fact that she can actually donate items, instead of cash.

"That's always difficult for people who can't afford to give financial donations. We know we have a lot of things to donate. So I was just thrilled that they're here," she told ABC7.

At least three containers of donated goods were shipped out to the tsunami-ravaged Samoan Islands on Sunday morning. People have brought clothes, non-perishable food and lots of water.

Most of the items have been earmarked for American Samoa. As for those that have not been designated, workers are putting them in the container heading to Apia, the capital of the independent state of Samoa.

"They don't have the resources that American Samoa has as being a link to the U.S. That's why we're trying to target much of the water and dry food to Apia because we have lot of phone calls where people are saying, 'What about Apia? What about us?'" said Lia Langi-Pahulu with SF Enterprises.

In the South Bay, people were just as busy over the weekend with Samoa relief efforts. At the Crossroad Calvary Chapel in San Jose, volunteers organized a car wash to raise money. By the end of day Saturday, they had raised $1,000 for tsunami victims.

"People were so grateful with what they were giving and so a lot of cars, even though they didn't wash their cars, they just donated money for the cause," said organizer Leedo Pomele.

Members of the Samoan community say they are committed to long-term support so all of this organizing will continue in the weeks ahead. On Sunday, Samoan churches throughout the Bay Area planned on having service together at Philip and Sala Burton High School in San Francisco.

"It's really affected everyone in the Samoan community because we all have families back home that we love, and we just want to make sure that we as a community stay that way," said Patsy Tito at the Samoan Community Development Center.

SF Enterprises, the Oakland freight company that has been accepting donations, will continue to do so at least for the next few weeks. They have another shipment leaving for the Samoan Islands on October 16th.

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