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362 sirens at ready on Upolu and Savaii

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, March 30, 2010) – A disaster warning system has been put in place for villages in Samoa so people no longer have to be afraid when they hear church bells ringing.

Church bells have been used to warn villagers of a tsunami or natural disaster but a new warning system has been donated by the United States government.

362 air horns have been distributed to more than 100 villages in Upolu and Savaii.

The US Charge d’Affaires in Samoa, Robin Yeager, says in the aftermath of last year’s tsunami she heard a number of striking stories that prompted her to provide the warning system.

She says she heard many stories that every time church bells rang, villagers felt terrified and would run.

"Every time the church bells sounded whether it was for a disaster or for church or for anything else they had this panic attack. After hearing several people say something like that it occurred to me what we needed to do was differentiate the sound for a disaster from the sound of church bells which need to be panic free and allow people to just respond and go to church and go to meetings or whatever it is they need to do but not run for higher ground."

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