The Samoa Government wants a stronger climate crisis awareness, said the Acting Prime Minister, Tuala Tevaga Ponifasio as he sent condolences and messages of encouragement to people of Samoa especially to those who lost a loved one in the 2009 tsunami.

“On behalf of the Honourable Prime Minister and Cabinet, I convey our prayers and well wishes to all families and relatives of those who lost their lives in the 2009 tsunami,” he said.

“Today also serves to remind us that the climate crisis is real and its effects are detrimental to the environment and our lives especially for small island countries like Samoa.

“The current global trends in weather and climatic patterns attest to the urgent need for greater and stronger concerted efforts to respond to the climate crisis and to strategise ways to strengthen countries’ resilience and recovery abilities. 

“This has been done through Samoa’s regular engagement in national, regional and international fora, and through genuine partnerships.”

“On this day, 14 years ago two massive earthquakes reaching the magnitude of 8.1 near the Tongan trench struck the centre of Samoa’s archipelago, and generated unprecedented tsunami waves of more than 20 metres high. 

“These tsunami waves furiously engulfed the shores of the southern part of the Samoan islands, causing massive destruction to properties and infrastructure, and claimed 149 lives in Samoa, 34 in American Samoa. Nine deaths were recorded in Tonga.

“The daunting sound and splashes of tsunami waves, fear, and disarray of that day, may never be forgotten – especially for the families of the casualties. Amongst the casualties were parents, children and visitors from overseas who were visiting our shores at the time. Among these children was a child who was five months old. 

“The horrendous impacts of the Tsunami 2009 on our country and people were devastating, but through the support of government agencies, civil society organisations, villages and communities and our development partners, we were able to rebuild from this devastation. Above all it was the grace of God that saved us, and helped our country to rebuild.”

“Today, at a wreath laying ceremony at the Tuana’imato cemetery where the tsunami 2009 commemorative headstone was erected in 2010, we remembered and acknowledged the people of over twenty villages in Samoa and those from overseas who lost their lives in the tsunami.”

Over a decade after the tsunami, families in Samoa that were directly impacted by the natural disaster, continue to pick up the pieces from that harrowing Tuesday morning. 

Meanwhile, preparedness measures initiated by the relevant Government agencies have also gone up a notch with villages, schools and even churches now playing key roles in evacuation drills in anticipation of a future earthquake. 

There were also families, who felt the brunt of the tsunami, and chose to relocate after the natural disaster and rebuilt their lives away from the coastline of Upolu.

Since the destructive tsunami which claimed close to 200 lives in 2009, almost all families in Leusoalii who resided on the coastal land have moved up to the mountain where they are thriving and escaping their worries.

If you drive through that road today, there is newly developed customary lands, newly constructed houses in places where it was bushland and plantations. The new village looks out to the ocean giving an amazing view. 

A 62-year-old resident of Leusoalii, Ana Mulitalo who is one of the first to move up to the mountain for good and built her house there with her family, shared her relief in a previous interview with this newspaper on how they are free from worries of any tsunami and earthquakes now.

“Talking about the tsunami in 2009, it’s the main reason why we decided to live on the mountain and we’re the first ones to do so in 2013 and we later managed to convince most of the other families to move up here and have a feel of what we’re feeling with how the air is up here,” she said.

This story was written by Talaia Mika, originally published at Samoa Observer on 02 October 2023, reposted via PACNEWS.

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