Am. Samoa Considers Disaster Declaration After Flooding, Landslides

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Governor holds first meeting after returning to territory

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, August 4, 2014) – Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga has tasked the Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale and Homeland Security Director Utuali’i Iuniasolua to determine whether or not a disaster declaration for the damage caused by the recent flooding and landslides should be submitted to the federal government before the deadline is reached, which is 30 days after the disaster.

Lolo pointed out in his first official meeting after returning to the territory Friday night that the Administration has a disaster plan that should be followed during times like these. "The biggest question is what are we doing for our people?" he questioned.

Lolo said we have to be very specific while working on the declaration. The DHS Director noted that the families have been told to first take photos of their homes that are affected and then carry out the clean up and to get the water and electric operational before they return to their homes.

During the briefing at the Homeland Security office Saturday morning it was revealed that United States Department of Agriculture is on island to render assistance, while as of Saturday FEMA officials are still seeking flights to the territory.

Lolo demanded that the reports of assessments on the villages be given to Savusa. "We need to focus on this and by the end of this week we should have a plan of what to do," he said.

"The AG and Savusa will review these assessments and qualifications to determine if a local declaration is warranted to support a presidential declaration. We don’t have to wait for the declaration to carry out our daily lives, people need to return to their homes."

"We need to act accordingly to the disasters, you all know the part you play in times like these. Public Works should be on the roll, ASPA should be getting power and water to the families affected."

Governor Lolo also took issue with the brown runoff going into the ocean after the rains, noting that this has not been addressed; yet it’s not a new problem in the territory.

"Its time that you Ameko (ASEPA Director) and DMW and others involved find out why this keeps on happening. Find out who’s at fault in the government and fine those responsible."

Lolo commended the directors for their approach in this disaster, noting that it’s not easy, but if a major disaster strikes, "we are far from being ready to move forward with our services."

He continued, "You as directors know what you are designated to do, but if we can’t act accordingly with this small disaster how can we act with a tsunami or a hurricane? This is the right time to get used to the process and organize how we do our jobs and gain experience on what we need to do."

Lolo urged that by next week, they should not be holding meetings but action should be in place and the families should be returning to their homes. He told DBAS President, Ruth Matagi Fa’atili to see if these families are entitled to loans from the Development Bank for repair to their homes.

SHELTERS

He said the Samoana High School shelter was closed down this weekend, while the CCCAS Gatavai shelter at the reverend’s home still has 73 people staying in it and in Fagatogo, the shelter at the Catholic Hall has 13 people still there.

He said many residents who are affected are now at their homes doing clean up, however they go to the shelters for the meals being provided three times a day by the DOE school lunch program.

ASSESSMENTS ON GOV BUILDINGS, HOMES & CHURCHES

The DHS Director said during the briefing that government departments and agencies have been tasked with assessments for certain villages and a report should be prepared on the assessments.

For the departments and agencies making assessments, the reports should be ready by Monday at noon, while the territorial assessment will continue, given that is a huge task.

Also each department that was affected with the flooding will also prepare their own assessment of the damages to their department. Leading agency for these assessments is the Department of Public Works.

Lt. Governor Lemanu Mauga, who was also at the briefing on Saturday, pointed out that the villages that suffered the most severe damages are Faga’alu, Utulei, Fagaotogo and parts of Pago Pago.

He said due to bad weather the MV Sili could not make a trip to Manu’a, which is why they cannot visit Manu’a to conduct assessments. However reports have it that Aunu’u and Manu’a have not sustained damages from the flooding, said Lemanu.

In addition, Lemanu thanked the Red Cross and other NGO’s for providing assistance to the families who have been affected, as well as the private sector businesses that lent a helping hand in cleaning up the debris on the main road.

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