Friday, October 2, 2009

Latest news in Samoa - Saturday 3 October...

Latest news in Samoa: Saturday 3 October

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has arrived in Samoa for a day-long trip touring the tsunami damaged areas.

He is to first visit the village of Poutasi, where he is to have a private meeting with a family friend who has lost people in the tsunami.

He will then head to the are worst affected by the tsumamis generated by Wednesday's magnitude 8.3 earthquake, Lalomanu, where he is to visit the New Zealand Red Cross team assisting in disaster recovery.

Later in the day he will meet his Samoan counterpart, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, before heading home tonight.

Mr Malielegaoi today said many Samoans say they will abandon their seaside homes and build inland.

Eight to nine bodies, mostly children, have so far been recovered today, Radio New Zealand reported.

Fourteen injured New Zealanders arrived home on an Air Force plane this morning as the death toll from the Samoan tsunami mounts.


An Otara grandmother, an Auckland toddler and two Waikato sisters are feared to be among the dead.

As searchers continue the grim task of finding bodies four days after a magnitude 8.3 earthquake and four waves hit the country, hopes are fading for a two-year-old boy swept out to sea and Matamata sisters Petria and Rebecca Martin, missing since Wednesday.

The family of Tauaavaga Tupuola – grandmother of Kiwis rugby league star Matt Utai – are now preparing to bring their matriarch home.

The 84-year-old was swept to her death along with her daughter Bula Okei, 28, and three-year-old granddaughter Sima.

Mrs Tupuola was visiting family at the isolated southern Samoan beach of Aganoa when she died. She had surprised family with her first visit to her homeland since emigrating to New Zealand more than 30 years ago.

Her son-in-law Tautua Eteuati showed The Dominion Post the hollow where the wave wrenched Mrs Tupuola from his grasp.

"We were rolling in the water and I lost her," he said, pointing out the spot behind a tin dinghy where Mrs Tupuola's body was found.

When the earthquake struck, Mr Eteuati yelled at his son and daughter-in-law to take the two children and run to higher ground. He stayed behind to lift his mother-in-law, who could not walk.

They were hit by the wave and he somehow managed to hold on to Mrs Tupuola.

"I had swallowed a lot of salt water. I thought I would die. I opened my eyes and put my hand up and touched a tree branch."

Ad Feedback He told his mother-in-law to "just keep breathing" but another tower of water bore down on them and he could no longer hold on to her.

Utai, who played four tests for the Kiwis and is a winger with NRL team Canterbury Bulldogs, will fly to Samoa on Tuesday to be with his family.

"He's very emotional about it," said his manager, Mark Rowan. "He was very close to his grandmother."

Three New Zealanders are now confirmed dead, including Raglan woman Mary Ann White.

The total death toll last night stood at 189 – 149 in Samoa, 31 in American Samoa and nine in Tonga, but was expected to rise further.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed last night that the toddler – who had been on a beach on the island of Upolu and was carried away while his parents managed to swim to safety – was missing presumed drowned.

Foreign Affairs also had grave fears for the two Matamata sisters, whose parents Kerry and Lynne flew to Samoa early this morning to help in the search for their two middle daughters

Mr Martin admitted hope was dwindling.

"We're going to go and see for ourselves and try and make some sense of it, and we're pretty hopeful that we'll find answers up there," he said. "Our chance of a good story isn't looking too good."

The sisters' family yesterday provided DNA to police.

Rebecca Martin, 24, teaches at Rototuna Primary School and Petria, 22, is team leader at Matamata's sports centre. Their friends Jodi McGlashan and Olivia Loeffen survived the tsunami, Ms Loeffen requiring surgery.

Foreign Affairs today said 18 Kiwis were known to be injured in the tsunami.

The high commission in Apia is still trying to locate 239 New Zealanders who are being urged to come forward.

"I'm hoping that all the unaccounted people are just people who haven't yet shown up," said Acting Prime Minister Bill English. "We can't know for sure."

Foreign Affairs today revised its travel advisory for Samoa, lowering the risk from "high risk" and advising against tourist and non-essential travel to "some risk" in parts of Samoa due to the tsunami.

The Queen last night sent condolences to the Samoan people. "I was saddened to hear of the tragic loss of life," she said.

Many bodies were pulled from the wreckage of Samoa's worst-hit southeastern corner, including five children.

Earth-moving machinery was helping to clear smashed timber and roofing iron stacked at the water's edge.

Acknowledgements: Dominion Post, Waikato Times,

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