TROPICAL STORM RON DAMAGES SWAINS ISLAND

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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (January 4, 1998 - Samoa News)---Packing winds of 90 miles per hour, Tropical Storm Ron smashed into American Samoa’s remote Swains Island Friday, causing severe damage to buildings but no deaths or injuries.

Faamausili Pola, Manager of the Territorial Emergency Management Coordinating Office, said an official accounting of damages is not yet available, but an assessment crew was making plans to travel to the low-lying U.S. atoll south of the New Zealand territory of Tokelau Monday.

Only 49 people live on the island, which is part of American Samoa but is privately owned by the Jennings and Thompson families and once was claimed by Tokelau.

Swains Island Delegate Wallace Thompson told the Samoa News on Saturday that "no one was injured, but the residents are a little shook up. All Polynesian fales were blown down except for the Government dispensary and the school."

Rep. Thompson was able to communicate with his family with the assistance of Samoa Air and the Federal Aviation Administration, using a marine radio frequency.

"The island’s church, which was built many years ago, suffered broken windows only," he said. "The pastor said the winds were fierce."

Thompson said "The Weather Service provided an accurate forecast of when the storm was going to hit Swains Island," and the residents had a 48 hour warning.

"With the two water tanks that were floated to Swains two months ago, the islanders were able to collect water during the heavy rains, so there is no problem with drinking water."

The residents, he added, are also using an electricity generator brought in by the American Samoa Power Authority three months ago.

Thompson was planning to meet Monday with government authorities to brief them on what the residents told him.

"I spoke to Governor Tauese already to brief him on the situation as the governor was very concerned," Thompson noted. "I appreciate the assistance from various government agencies that came forth, lending their help."

Those agencies include the Territorial Emergency Management Coordinating Office, the Coast Guard, the Governor’s Office, the Federal Aviation Agency, the Weather Service, the Red Cross and (from the private sector) Samoa Air.

The delegate plans to call on Samoa Air to make a fly-over to assess the damage from the air.

In the meantime, the Tokelauan community in Honolulu has already begun to gather donations for Swains Island residents. Thompson said the community in Hawaii is working with shipping companies to carry the donation when it is ready for departure.

Since hitting Swains Island, Tropical Storm Ron has been upgraded to hurricane status and, at last report, was moving southwesterly away from both Samoas.

Stories from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to .

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