Update Gita: Complaints about assessments continue to pile up
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Last Saturday when police were called to one of the Points of Distribution for the Red Cross, Samoa News was told that no one was arrested; however, people were not happy — after the long wait in line, to be told they were not on the ‘assessment’ list. More than one village is served at the different PODs — so people crowded in, with many arriving very early in the morning to stand in line. People became extremely agitated and verbal, saying among other things that their homes were still not assessed, and also that others seem to be receiving help, yet Gita had not damaged their homes. The Office of Samoan Affairs called an emergency meeting early yesterday morning for all pulenu’u (village mayors) to attend, as complaints poured into their office after last weekend’s fiasco — pointing to pulenu’u doing little to ‘smooth the waters’.
Samoa News also received word that some families refused to leave certain church-hall shelters, saying their homes are not inhabitable, and became angry when told to return home, as help from the Red Cross was being distributed, and home assessments were supposedly completed.
To date, there are 11 shelters that remain open; and as of last Friday, 600 people are being served.
Teams from Tutuila traveled to Manu’a over the weekend to assess the damage caused by Tropical Storm Gita and the results will be included with the ones finalized for Tutuila, which suffered the brunt of the storm with damages to homes, infrastructure, and agricultural products, especially bananas. According to the Emergency Operations Center, there’s no indication when the assessment team will return to Tutuila. Village mayors and village police in Manu’a were directed by the Secretary of Samoan Affairs to assist and escort the assessment teams.
Manu’a faipule and House Vice Speaker, Fetu Fetui Jr., said the reports he received immediately after the storm state that the majority of the damage was to agriculture products, with plantations devastated by the strong winds.
“Based on the reports that I received upon checking with Manu’a, there were some homes that were damaged,” Fetui told Samoa News yesterday, noting that the government assessment would provide additional information.
Among the latest reminders from EOC:
• Remain in your home if it is livable to allow room/ space in shelters for individuals whose homes suffered major damages and are unsafe to be occupied.
More importantly, staying at the shelter while your home is in livable condition will not increase your eligibility for further assistance.
• Department of Human and Social Services (DHSS) advises the public to contact the 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 633-9017 if any assistance is needed.
• Contact your village mayor (pulenu’u) or the Office of Samoan Affairs (OSA) at 633-5201 or call EOC at 699-3800/ 3801 if your home has sustained damages from Gita and an assessment has not been completed or done. For other Emergency responders’ contacts:
- Red Cross number is 272-8090
- Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) — 733- 2342
Samoa News should point out that people are complaining that some of the assessors are driving by in their vehicles, not doing door-to-door visits. They
claim the assessors are ‘missing’ damaged homes, especially given that many houses are built immediately behind others and as such cannot necessarily be seen from the road.
Further, according to one house owner, “How do you know the condition of the house if you don’t get out of the car and physically experience or see the extent of the damage?”