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A year after tsunami, water service just a promise

By Charlina Tone APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Sept. 28, 2010) - After a few days without rain Olo Tolovae of Lepa sends his four daughters with buckets to the village pool to collect water.

The 30 minute walk can be very tiring so his daughters’ reluctance to make the trip comes as no surprise.

The girls are still trying to adjust to this new lifestyle since relocating inland after the tsunami almost a year ago.

But Mr. Tolovae believes it’s a small price to pay for guaranteed safety against another tidal wave.

"We desperately need running water here," he said. "It has been almost a year and still nothing, just endless promises that the water supply will reach us soon."

Living in Lepa, one of the worst hit villages, the family envy their neighbor’s new tank placed in front of the house.

A water truck makes a weekly trip to families with tanks and refills them.

"Before I used to try and stop the truck to ask for some water but it always speeds by, so I don’t try any more" said Mr. Tolovae.

He and his family also missed out on the new WS$18,000 [US$7,000] tsunami house that was promised to every family in the area.

"I don’t know why we didn’t get a new house like the other families," he said.

"When we first moved here right after the tsunami hit we collected junk from around to build our house, thinking it would be a temporary shelter until the aid arrived. But it still hasn’t and after a year we are still living like this."

But the Tolovae’s did receive WS$10,000 [US$4,000] that they used to purchase building materials.

We received that money recently and have started to buy iron roofing and posts to build a more civilised house," he said.

The family lost all their possessions in the tsunami.

About 500 metres away from the Tolovae’s, Uini Poalaga is washing her dishes near the main road where the family’s water tank is placed.

Her home is across the road, up on a small hill.

Washing the dishes is part of her daily routine. The family also use the same tank to get water for bathing, drinking and cooking.

"It’s a hassle and is very inconvenient but there is no other way for us to get water," she said.

But Mrs. Poalaga is grateful for the tank because previously their situation was even worse.

"My children and I would have to walk down to the village pool and to our relatives along the coast to get water," she said.

The family has no intention of moving back near the coast for fear of another tsunami.

Fotu Siaosi, his wife Tuu and their five month old baby face a similar daily struggle.

The family has no water or electricity. Mr. Siaosi is unsure why his family was not given a water tank or a new house.

"We relocated too but were not given the same privileges as other families," he said.

"We built our own house and get water from a pool in our family down the road."

On the same access road further up in Saleapaga, Ulalia Fouina smiles at the sight of the water tank on the main road in front of the family house.

"We were so happy when we got that tank two months ago because before that getting water was a huge struggle," she said.

A year after the tsunami, families living on the access road from Lepa to Lalomanu are still without a proper water supply.

Most have no intention of moving back near the coast where water supply was not an issue.

"It is better to be safe than sorry," Mrs. Fouina said.

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