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Four months after disaster, life is struggle

Karina Walton APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Jan. 30, 2010) - Toothbrushes scatter among cutlery. They get water once a week, if they are lucky in Samoa.

Four months after the tsunami devastated their village; it seems as if nothing has changed since the first week after 29 September.

Rasela Tapelu, of Saleapaga, and her family live in a basic structured hut, funded by relatives in New Zealand.

She said they are still waiting for their 18,000 tala [US$7,000] house the government promised.

When it rains and when it is windy, their fale [house] is drenched.

"We have been to the government office in town five times," she said. "Every single time, they have turned us away with excuses such as we are not on the village mayor’s list or that help is on its way."

Mrs. Tapelu’s husband’s name has been crossed off the list for people who still wait for homes. One of Mrs. Tapelu’s family homes is still standing but she does not own it and did not live in it. Although they have managed to erect a small hut, there is hardly any room.

Her possessions pile on top of each other in an attempt to make more room for sleeping.

The kitchen is another house entirely, a small fale, with an even smaller house being used as a bathroom facility.

Her family receives water once a week if lucky, hardly enough for a family of eight. This includes her in-laws’ family too.

The water is often green.

"There are much bigger families living at the bottom of the hill," she said. "So by the time the water truck comes up here, there is hardly any water, if there is any left."

With a make do drain steel pipe attached to the edge of the roof, Mrs. Tapelu has placed water drums at the bottom, trying to catch rain water for basic survival.

Mrs. Tapelu’s plight is similar to many who live in Saleapaga.

The small fale halfway down the hill belongs to Tupu Filipo and her children. Holes in the roof make it difficult to sleep when it rains.

Three of her children have to sleep in a tent outside, as only her and her two daughters can fit in the fale.

They also wait for government aid and have been turned away four times. "We were told to wait, that it was coming but it never comes and probably never will," she said in tears.

Her children have been living in the tent since the tsunami.

Next door lives Tu’ula Piula and his family of more than ten.

Because there is not enough room, his daughters have to walk to Aufaga with their children to find somewhere to sleep with their husband’s families. The youngest is a three-month-old baby girl.

"I have been turned away so many times the last time I was there I swore at them, we are getting nowhere, this is no way for my family to be living, squashed up like this."

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