Counting the cost of Cyclone Evan in Samoa | Pacific Beat

Counting the cost of Cyclone Evan in Samoa

Counting the cost of Cyclone Evan in Samoa

Updated 18 December 2012, 13:00 AEDT

In Samoa, Cyclone Evan caused what many are describing as the worst flooding in living memory.

The death toll stands at four, but that number is expected to rise as people are still unaccounted for.

Eight fishermen are still missing at sea, and we'll be getting the latest from the Maritime New Zealand crew who've been out searching for them a little later in show.

With the government and emergency workers concentrating on rebuilding, Samoa's government estimates the reconstruction bill in the wake of the cyclone will be in the range of 300-million dollars.

Keni Lesa, the editor of the Samoa Observer, gave us the latest from Apia.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Keni Lesa, Editor, Samoa Observer


LESA: Very dusty at the moment, of course it's about ten o'clock here, people have just woken to sound us out and it's all clean-up today.
COUTTS: And how much of the clean-up has already happened?
LESA: Look a lot of clean-up since Saturday at the weekend, but there's a lot more to be done. Obviously the biggest frustration for businesses and the families who were hit by the floods, it doesn't really matter what they do to this mud, it just doesn't seem to go away, and all the sludge. And the country's biggest resort , Aggie Grey's Hotel has been severely hit. I've just driven past it and  there's trucks and trucks coming out with sludge and they're still working on it.
COUTTS: Well Aggie Grey has been hit, it's a landmark and an icon of course for Apia. But how many buildings in the CBD are still remaining?
LESA: There's a lot of buildings standing, there wasn't that much building damage. They haven't done an internal inspection yet, but most of the damage in the town area was done by flooding and the water.
COUTTS: Was the flooding from the sea surges of just the incessant rain, the dumping of the tropical rain that caused the damage and the flooding?
LESA: It was as a result of both, apparently we've both told this but we've yet to confirm this, but we've told that the dam up at Tumumuhnunu burst and that's what resulted in the floods and a lot of people said they'd never seen this before.
COUTTS: Well that was what I was going to ask you, they haven't seen flooding of this kind before. Can you just try and quantify it for us and give us an extent of the flooding that did occur?
LESA: Look I was speaking yesterday to a guy who's working for Aggie Grey, he's a former Manu Samoa player. He's about six feet, close to seven feet, and he said the water was taller than him. So you can imagine that.
COUTTS: And while it was surging were people carried away, did people caught up in the flows and the currents of it?
LESA: There's a lot of amazing survival stories. Yes people were carried away, but the police and the fire service they did an excellent job. Of course we've still got a lot of people missing.
COUTTS: And tell us about some of the survival stories that you've heard?
LESA: One particular story that I'm really interested in is a story about this kid who went about 200 metres to find a life raft to save his grandma. Apparently the water was rising in the house and the water was up to the grandma's neck, and this kid comes out with a life-saving raft and tied it to her electric pole and swims across this strong current and he saved his grandma.
COUTTS: Wow well that is an amazing story. Now has the flooding receded? You're just left with the mud now?
LESA: Yes it receded on the weekend, and it's just the mud and the dirt now. It's just not healthy driving around Apia at the moment.
COUTTS: How much of the restoration has happened? Is the power back on, the power lines up and the water switched back on?
LESA: Yes some areas of town have got their water back on and the electricity. But there's still a lot more to go, and even with the electricity up it's sort of fluctuating a bit. So a lot of people have still got their generators running just to protect their property.
COUTTS: And the people are still in care centres in Apia and right across Upolu?
LESA: Yeah that's correct, there's about five-thousand people have been displaced and they're all in those care centres, and they're filling up quite quickly as people are still moving out of their houses because they don't think it's safe.
COUTTS: So five thousand people is a lot of people, have they got enough food and water at this stage?
LESA: I think at this stage the appeal is food and water for anybody who can provide and that's what going out, even clothing and stuff. So if there are people who want to help Samoa, perhaps those are the areas they can look at.
COUTTS: Well five thousand people is a lot to feed and clothe. Is there any sign of illness at this stage because the water's been contaminated and people drinking dirty water?
LESA: Well that will obviously happen. I mean it's just inevitable, and that's like I said, all you need to do is come around to Apia and have a look at the dust going around and you know that's part of the problem. So far the authorities have not said anything, but that's one of the real fears at the moment.
COUTTS: What about yourself  Keni, how have you been impacted?
LESA: We haven't really looked, me personally and we've been very blessed. Having been around the country and having looked at the suffering that some of our people have been through, I said to my family last night that we're very blessed and we feel very safe compared to everyone else who's lost so much. This is not going to be a happy Christmas for a lot of people. A lot of businesses have been damaged and there's a lot of people who are likely to lose their jobs over the next coming weeks.
COUTTS: And we're also getting reports that Cyclone Evan has caused more damage than the tsunami a few years ago because it's more widespread across Upolu?
LESA: Exactly, exactly. The tsunami of 2009 was devastating in terms of lives lost, but this is much bigger because it's taken not just the whole of Upolu, but it's really hit the business community hard. And so obviously this will set our economy back a few years, which is a pity because just as it was starting to move.


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