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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, Jan. 7) - American Samoa is in a state of emergency after Acting Governor Aitofele Sunia issued a "Declaration of Emergency" at 9 a.m. on Monday after Tropical Cyclone Heta moved away from the Territory heading towards Niue, leaving behind much damage to public and private properties.

By Sunday morning, Sunia activated the American Samoa Government's (ASG) Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate emergency response activities staff by first responder personnel from various government agencies.

Heta passed American Samoa within 140 miles off Tutuila and never made landfall, with peak damaging winds between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. in the early Monday hours.

The declaration states that Heta was expected to peak at sustained wind speeds of 180 miles per hour at its core, with gusts of 195 miles per hour and would create 45 foot wave surges.

"High winds, high tidal action and heavy rainfall has caused extensive damage to critical infrastructure and public and private property throughout American Samoa," the declaration points out.

It further states that Heta has resulted in "requiring medical evacuation and the emergency evacuation of 140 individuals."

In declaring the "state of emergency throughout ... American Samoa to remain in effect until further notice," Sunia called "upon the government, non-government organizations, private sector and residents of American Samoa to coordinate and assist with restoration efforts."

Reprentatives of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were on route to Pago Pago to assist to recovery efforts.

Sunia said he would forward a request to U.S. President George W. Bush, to declare American Samoa a federal emergency site. By yesterday afternoon, the request was been finalized and a copy was not available at press time.

Governor Togiola Tulafono was expected back in the Territory from Apia either last night or this morning.

He left Thursday afternoon to take part in the 91st birthday celebration of Samoa's Head of State, Malietoa Tanumafili II that was scheduled for Monday this week.

However, reports out of Apia indicated that the celebrations were canceled due to the aftermath of Heta.

January 8, 2004

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