Police called to bring peace at one Am Red Cross distribution point
Pago Pago, AMERICA SAMOA — More people are complaining that their homes, which have been damaged or destroyed by Tropical Storm Gita, have yet to be assessed by the government, causing some to lash out at American Red Cross workers, who were on hand over the weekend, as they began to distribute their emergency supplies to impacted victims.
At two locations — or points of distribution (POD) — some residents took their anger out on Red Cross volunteers complaining about their homes that suffered major damages not being assessed at all or correctly, according to reports received by Samoa News. Cops were called in at one Red Cross point of distribution when residents got a bit aggressive when they found out that their names were not on the Red Cross Distribution lists. No arrests were made, sources say.
Samoa News was told residents made angry comments, claiming no assessors came to their houses to assess any damages or to make sure they were added to a list. These residents were told by the Red Cross Volunteers to please call E.O.C. @ 699-3800 for additional help or to have their houses re-evaluated when some complained as being listed as minor damages when they suffered heavy damages because of Tropical Storm Gita. ASG’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in its post-storm bulletin as of 6 p.m last Saturday, noted that it’s “VERY IMPORTANT” for the public to contact their pulenu’u at the Office of Samoan Affairs at 633-5201 or call EOC at 699-3800 if your homes suffered damages from the storm and an assessment has not been completed. Samoa News reported last Friday that the joint preliminary damage assessment (PDA) carried out by the local government and its federal partners, including the US Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) is complete and data turned over to the Governor’s Office.
That story resulted in residents contacting Samoa News claiming that their homes — either damaged or destroyed — weren’t even visited to be assessed. As in previous stories following the storm, residents were informed to contact EOC or their village pulenu’u to put their information on record.
However, some people told Samoa News over the weekend they have given up waiting or trying to contact the EOC or the pulenu’u and are now going directly to their faipule for help. They say they are scared they are being ‘overlooked’ and want to make sure they are ‘on record’ as being in need of assistance from FEMA.
The Governor’ s Office confirmed over the weekend that the governor has received the PDA and other data, which is being reviewed.
Additionally, the Governor’s Office was also looking at reports from Manu’a if the island group suffered any damage, after the storm moved east of Tutuila and away from the territory. The PDA and other supporting data will then be submitted by the governor to the US government for a major disaster declaration by the US President resulting in more federal help for impacted residents as well as government property.
For homes that were damaged or destroyed by the storm, and assessed by local authorities, a mark or bunch of numbers is sprayed on part of the structure, according to observations made by Samoa News of several damaged homes.
Late last week tents as temporary shelters that were provided by FEMA to ASG as part of the federal direct assistance were distributed and installed on properties of families whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm.
According to EOC, the temporary shelters are provided to disaster survivors with homes that have been destroyed. Additionally, the Office of Samoan Affairs will contact families that will receive tents to set up on their property.
However, Samoa News observed over the weekend a family in Fagaima, whose two houses were severely damaged by the storm have yet to receive a tent, although the houses have already been assessed by local authorities. One house is completely uninhabitable, and occupants are living with friends further down the street. The second house still has occupants.
EOC says the American Red Cross will visit families receiving tents to provide ‘Welcome’ kits that will help make the tents livable. “Family homes must have been assessed as destroyed or having major or minor damage to receive this assistance from the Red Cross,” EOC explained.
The Welcome kit, includes a cooler, clean up kit, mini-first aid kit, gloves, and small portable stove with canisters for gas.
Last week Thursday, EOC announced the PODs for Red Cross emergency supplies. Additional locations were announced later for Friday and Saturday with PODs set up in one village, and also serving nearby villages. The Red Cross is working closely with the local authorities and has left it up to EOC to announce the PODs.
For today, Monday, the PODs, according to EOC in its 6 p.m. special bulletin last Saturday are:
• Pago Pago, at Depart- ment of Y outh & W omen Affairs (DYWA) and also serving Fatumafuti, Fagaalu, Gatavai, Utulei, Fagatogo, Happy V alley, Fagasa, Aua, and Laulii
• Amouli, at Guest House Fuata - and also serving Amaua, Sailele, Aoa, Alao, Tula, Aunuu.
EOC says that families in emergency shelters — currently set up at church halls — are encouraged to return home when able, especially after assistance has been received from the Red Cross or ASG.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Lemanu Sialega Palepoi Mauga, who is also the Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR), and other ASG officials will speak Thursday at a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce, regarding storm Gita relief and restoration efforts. The meeting, set to begin at 6 p.m. will be at the Tradewinds Hotel, where Human and Social Service director Muavefa’atasi John Suisala will speak on shelters and other issues; Public Works director, Faleosina Voigt, will discuss individual assessments; while Office of Disaster Assistance and Petroleum Management executive director Alfonso Pete Galeai will talk about public assessments.