28 Oct 2009

American Samoa features in CNN investigation piece

11:48 am on 28 October 2009

The news service, CNN is airing the first of a two part investigation tonight on whether federal funds for a tsunami warning system for American Samoa may have been misused.

CNN says Public records show the US Department of Homeland Security or DHS had awarded millions of federal dollars in grants for disaster preparedness in the Territory.

But all the federal funding was frozen in early 2007 after DHS inspectors found that the local American Samoan government had been diverting millions of those dollars elsewhere.

The CNN team interviewed, Birdsall Alailima, who was director of American Samoa's territorial office of Homeland Security from 2003 through 2007.

He showed CNN on a map exactly where on the island warning sirens were to have been placed.

He says there were to be thirty towers in all, with 30 sirens that could have been activated by the push of a single button.

However, Governor Togiola Tulafono told CNN there was a study but never a plan for a system.

According to CNN, American Samoan government officials said they purchased another warning system -- radios that would have triggered alarms across the island.

But during the CNN interview, Governor Togiola conceded that the system "was not in place" when the tsunami struck.

The FBI is also now conducting an investigation into exactly what happened to the federal preparedness funds sent to American Samoa.