Report from Samoa
The devastation of Satitoa
Reconstruction team: (back row from left) Tim Thorne, Quentin McGregor, Blake Jones, Keith Smith, Bruce Baldwin, Graeme Hoskin; (front row from left) Cr Danny Jonas, Tumena Leafa, Anne-Marie Emerson, Alan Hoskin. Absent: Allan MacGibbon who went to Satitoa ahead of the rest of the team.
Date and time in Samoa
Update from Cr Danny Jonas in Satitoa
(Thursday morning, December 10 - local time)
There's been great progress with work on the communal building and the structure is nearly complete. It's a wooden structure with an iron roof – the floor, sides and roof are on. We've just got to put the iron on the roof and are hoping to get that done today.
We've been hampered a bit by some torrential downpours of rain. The local community has been a great help and there's always lots of people on site. Depending on the time we have left we also want to tidy up the area around the building as well, maybe create a bit of a garden.
Allan and I are in Apia this morning to visit the High Commission and introduce ourselves and update them on the project. We're also getting some extra supplies to take back to the village.
There is an opening celebration on Saturday for the building, which will be a chance for the team, our helpers and villagers to come together. We've already given out lots of the soft toys but will present most of the sporting equipment to the community on Saturday at the celebration.
Sunday is a day of no work here, but the building will be ready for the first church service to be held in it. During the week it will be used a pre-school for the local children.
The building will bring a new focal point and meeting place for local people – most of who are now living inland, away from the sea. They are terrified to set up home in the village now.
We were absolutely right to come to Satitoa. I'm very conscious just how much the generosity of the Wanganui community has meant and want to thank them. Satitoa was one of the hardest hit places – not necessarily in terms of lives lost but through the total destruction of the village. When we look around it is sobering.
I am glad we have been able to come here and make this positive contribution.
Update from Cr Danny Jonas in Satitoa
(Monday morning, December 7 - local time)
We are up at 5am and ready to start building work at 6am. It's 30 degrees by 8am and by then we are on our second lot of sunscreen. It's incredibly hot as there is little breeze where we are working – it's slightly cooler down in the village.
Building work has gone really well so far. The piles for the building are in and the concrete is laid. The local people here are keen to be part of the project. They helped us to unload the container when we arrived and have been working with us on the building.
Satitoa is absolutely the right village for this project. There is total devastation here caused by the tsunami. When we look around we still can't really find the words to describe what it is like.
We will get the building completed before we leave but it's clear that long-term help is needed here.
At approx 6.50am on 29 September 2009 [local time], the Samoan Islands were devastated by a severe earthquake and subsequent tsunami. A large number of villages were destroyed and over 100 people were killed. A massive international relief effort ensued, with Australia and New Zealand prominent.
The district of Wanganui was deeply affected by the tragedy and the council made contact immediately with members of its Samoan community. It part-funded a medical team to Samoa and began a district-wide collection. Over $40,000 was raised.
It was decided that this sum should be used practically, and after consultation with the local Samoan community, a project to rebuild a communal dwelling at Satitoa – one of the most devastated villages – was finalised. A container of building equipment was despatched to Apia.
A Reconstruction Team of 11 persons, including a Samoan translator, has been chosen and left Wanganui on Saturday, December 5. It is headed by Cr Danny Jonas and the council’s economic development manager, Allan MacGibbon. Mayor Michael Laws is co-ordinating the project from the Wanganui end.
Alan MacGibbon has been in Samoa since Monday, November 30, performing the vital tasks of reconnoitring the village, overseeing the requirements of the team, liaising with village, Samoan and aid officials and generally smoothing the path for the Reconstruction Team. Enclosed below are his assessments (Situation Report) of the current situation at Satitoa and in Samoa – including photographs of the area that will host the council team. They make for compelling reading.
Situation reports from Allan MacGibbon
Sitrep 4 - 4 December 2009
Sitrep 3 - 2 December 2009
Satitoa Diary from Wanganui Chronicle reporter Anne-Marie Emerson
Click here to read the daily updates from Anne-Marie
More information about Council's contribution to Samoa - Click here
Photos of Satitoa - click on an image to view a larger version
Before: The village of Satitoa before September’s devastating tsunami.
After: Satitoa is one of the areas worst affected by the tsunami. It is very low and quite deep in terms of its distance from the sea.
There are only a few houses in the village that will be able to be restored. The rest have been destroyed.
Fifteen Satitoa villagers, all of whom have been accounted for, died in the tsunami.
Satitoa had three churches. The Catholic Church was hardly touched in the tsunami – it was protected by trees and a large concrete wall in front.
The LMS Church, next door to the Catholic Church, was destroyed.
The Methodist Church was also destroyed.
The village’s High Chief is Te’o Uiva Simi. His house, which is right on the beach, was hit full on but the shell (reinforced concrete) survived. It was emptied of everything and all windows, doors and furnishings were washed out the front into the village.
Te’o’s family had a miraculous escape, leaving by car as the wave actually struck. This car behind them was hit and four people died.