Pacific Islands Tsunami: One Month Anniversary, Update

October 29, 2009

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Pacific Islands Tsunami: 10.6.09

On September 29, 2009 a tsunami swept across the island of American Samoa after a powerful earthquake hit the South Pacific. Soon after, the American Red Cross conducted relief efforts on the island. Red Cross workers and volunteers began aid immediately. Food and supplies were sent to the island. Hotshot teams were in the field disbursing food, water, pillows, linen, rakes, shovels, baby formula, and diapers. Red Cross partnered with the local government and helped set up yurts to shelter families. Health Services worked with families to assist with funeral expenses; and Disaster Mental Health and Spiritual Care teams were there to lend emotional support. Client casework teams are currently working with victims to help plan the recovery process. Training of local staff continues so the island will be prepared for future disasters.


Updated Stats:
• Supplies distributed (like Clean up kits): 84,714
Snacks served: 39,783
Mental Health Consultations: 3,637
Health Services Consultations: 1,593
Red Cross workers involved: 381

American Samoa: Photo Update

October 22, 2009

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10.20.09 Red Cross Distribute Supplies To Help Those Affected by the Tsunami
10.19.09 American Samoa Volunteers Focus on Children

10.19.09 American Samoa Volunteers Focus on Children

Pacific Islands: Eyewitness Report

October 22, 2009

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Red Cross Worker Helping Her Community

 Red Cross Worker Returns Home For
Funerals and Gives Back to Her Community

She lives thousands of miles away from her family, but she had to go back for the funerals—all of them. Her brother’s, her uncle’s, and all of the cousins from her mother’s side. Funerals for 13 members of her family—all killed in the tsunami that swept American Samoa and the neighboring nation of Samoa on the afternoon of Sept. 29.

She wept and shared memories and hugs with her surviving relatives. But after the funerals, when it was time to go home to Hawaii, she called her husband and child to say she wouldn’t be coming back yet. She had work to do.

So Alofa Ofagalilo, who has worked for the American Red Cross in Hawaii for five years, put on a red-and-white vest and joined the more than 300 Red Cross workers who have been on American Samoa for three weeks, bringing supplies and comfort to those who lost homes and family members in the waves.

“I’m seeing a lot of people in need,” said Ofagalilo. “The island is total mess. In some villages, people have been totally wiped out. But everybody is helping each other. They really uplift each other and anything you can do to help–shake their hand, hug them–it helps.”

With her own grief still raw, Ofagalilo is working in the field and with the American Red Cross disaster services in Pago Pago, translating for American Samoan families who speak more comfortably in Samoan. She is a native of independent Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa, and her husband is from American Samoa. “I learned Samoan when I was very young,” Ofagalilo said. “I can translate what help the family needs.”

She is also providing a diplomatic service on an island that values tradition, honor and respect:

“You have to say a person’s name correctly,” she said. “We have our own Samoan vowel; it is like an apostrophe when you speak, a pause.”

Her own first name contains one of those verbal apostrophes, and when an “off-islander” tried the pause, Ofagalilo laughed—a good sound to hear. But her pain is close to the surface. Asked how she works under the weight of losing so much of her family, she wells up.

“It’s hard for me to think about it,” she said. “I don’t really like to think about it….The Red Cross has been my immediate family for this difficult time.”

In Hawaii, she teaches CPR and First Aid for the American Red Cross—“I love what I do, teaching in the community,” she said—and she will return to that work soon. But not too soon. “Going home can wait,” she said. “This was my opportunity to help the people. I’m not going to sit around and feel sorry for me and my family. We are all Samoans. If I help these people, anybody on this island is my family.”

Press Release: UPS and Red Cross Team Up

October 22, 2009


UPS and the American Red Cross Team Up to Send Relief
Flight to American Samoa
Members of the Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program Provide Support

WASHINGTON, Thursday, October 22, 2009 — UPS is delivering 70 tons of food and relief supplies to communities affected by the earthquake and tsunami in American Samoa, as a UPS relief flight has delivered the first payload to assist the ongoing recovery efforts, with additional supplies scheduled to arrive in November by ocean freight.

The shipments by UPS, which is a member of the Annual Disaster Giving Program of the American Red Cross, are supporting the ongoing relief efforts of the Red Cross in American Samoa in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that struck on September 29. When disaster strikes, the Red Cross mobilizes volunteers and supplies into affected areas to shelter, feed and provide mental health counseling to disaster victims and emergency personnel.


Fast Facts: American Samoa

September 29, 2009

American Samoa

  • The first Polynesians established themselves in what is now American Samoa around 1000 B.C.
  • The seven islands that make up American Samoa are 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii and 1,600 miles northeast of New Zealand.
  • The island of Tutuila is the largest of the group and its capital is Pago Pago (pahn-go pahn-go). The capital of Pago Pago (pahn-go pahn-go) The island houses government offices and most of American Samoa’s industry.  It makes up two-thirds of the total land area of American Samoa and is the home to a majority of the 65,000 people that comprise American Samoan population.
  • The majority of the American Samoans live near the shore, though there are many villages in the interior of Tutuila.  In addition to the American Samoans, the residents of American Samoa include Chinese, Filipinos, Koreans, Papalagi (pah-pah’-lah-ngee) or Europeans and other Caucasians, Tongans, and Western Samoans.
  • April 17, 1900, the chiefs on Tutuila and Aunu’u ceded their islands by treaty to the U.S.  In the 1930s, the naval base built there took on strategic importance when the Japanese began naval actions in the Pacific.


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