Tent life still in Samoa

News and Press Release
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Campbell Cooney

Many Samoans left homeless after the September tsunami are going into the wettest part of the year still living under the tents and tarpaulins they were given after the disaster.

The tsunami that hit Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga killed nearly 200 people.

While a lot of rebuilding has been done, many of the thousands left homeless are still living rough, and are likely to be doing so for at least 12 months.

After losing 30 of its people - 20 of them children asleep in a child-care centre - to the tsunami, Saleapaga village and its 500 remaining citizens relocated to hills above to build anew.


But in the new cyclone season, heavy rain has seen a scaling-down of efforts to build new homes.

Andrew Hewitt, chief executive of Oxfam Australia, told Pacific Beat the country faces "difficult and challenging circumstances."

"Clearly people need good shelter. They need protection from the elements and the cyclone season is going to be a real challenge," he says.

Of the need for solid houses, he says: "That's going to be a priority over the coming months for government and the community."

But Danny Robes, holder of the chiefly title in Saleapaga, says it is likely to be more than a year before his people have proper shelter again.


The old Saleapaga village site, now derelict and smelly, is unlikely to be cleared for between two years and two and a half years, he believes.

Samoa needs tourism to help it pull through, but there are new requirements from authorities for beachside bungalows - fales - to be cyclone-proofed.

"It's a bit of a problem for locals ad people are suffering financially," Mr Robes says.

"They need money to rebuild."

Australia, New Zealand and aid agencies have donated $20 million to the aid effort, and Mr Robes hopes Samoan authorities direct it the right way.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation