Samoa: "It felt like a boat hit by a massive wave"

News and Press Release
Originally published
By Tauva Esera

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Jan. 8) - The effects of Cyclone Heta were felt in villages on the western side of the island, including Poloa, Fagali'i, and Fagamalo.

In Poloa, monstrous waves reaching as high as 35 feet completely washed away a residence located at the far end of the village.

One family, which was fortunately aware of the coming cyclone moved out before the waves swept away their home and as late as Tuesday morning waves were still making their way onto the road at Poloa coming up as far as Taputapu Elementary School.

Sea creatures, usually found only on the beach, were seeking refuge inland after being washed up by the waves.

Fa'alavelave Ati, whose house was washed away by the fierce waves, spoke to Samoa News at the location of his former residence expressing gratitude to God that his family is still around after what he called "a brush with death."

The husband and father of two children recalled hearing something hit their house from underneath.

"It felt like a boat being hit by a massive wave," Fa'alavelave told Samoa News.

He said they were awakened by the noise and realized that the water was coming under their thatched roof traditional fale and going past it.

He said he woke his wife and children, packed two bags and took them all to a nearby family residence.

He went back with intentions of packing more of their belongings, but according to Fa'alavelave, by the time he got back a huge wave had flattened everything and his house was nowhere to be seen.

"I was terrified looking at the monstrous and fierce looking waves working their way to where we had lived and taking off with everything we had," Fa'alavelave told Samoa News.

"I'm just thankful to God that I had been able to relocate my wife and my children before we were all washed off in the darkness," the father expressed.

Another family member who was smart enough to relocate before the situation got out of hand, said that they were "very lucky."

The family member who spoke only on condition of anonymity explained to Samoa News that after returning from a bingo game on Saturday night, she did not want to go to sleep as she knew the weather was not getting any better.

She explained at about 3 a.m. she heard a thunderous noise coming from the sea and just a few seconds later, the house was hit by a huge wave.

They got out of the house, and in the darkness they could see the ocean as white as ice as huge waves hit each other as they made their way to the shoreline.

On Tuesday afternoon as the tide was coming in, the family reported that the waves were coming up again just in front of their homes.

Other families were evacuating their homes Tuesday afternoon seeking refuge elsewhere.

The road down in to Poloa was covered with huge rocks, timber from several broken homes including one family's traditional kitchen, plastic and other debris making the road unsafe to travel.

On Tuesday afternoon, village Mayor Taumua Fa'apalo speaking to Samoa News via telephone stated that he had nothing to say as yet, since they were still in fear of the waves that were continuing to bring huge rocks up over the beach and crashing them down near their homes.