5 Oct 2009

Samoa comes to standstill for day of prayer

9:12 pm on 5 October 2009

Churches across Samoa were packed on Sunday local time (Monday NZ time) as the nation struggled to come to terms with last week's tsunami.

All relief aid work in both Samoa and American Samoa was halted to allow people a day of mourning and prayer.

About 600 people filled the Congregational Christian Church in Lalomanu, one of the worst-hit villages on the south coast of Upolu.

And in Apia, where a mass funeral for all the tsunami victims will be held on Friday NZ time, a small remembrance service took place in the Methodist church. It was attended by head of state Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese and prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

In American Samoa, about 600 people attended a prayer service that was broadcast on radio and television to tens of thousands more people.

Struggling to cope with daughters' deaths

Also in attendance were Kerry and Lynne Martin, whose daughters Rebecca, 24, and Petria, 22, were swept away by the tsunami last Wednesday.

The couple say they still can't believe their daughters are gone, but that going to Samoa has helped them cope with their loss.

It has been of some comfort, they say, to see where their daughters were and to speak to people who were with them at the resort.

The Martins say their daughters had been very excited at going to Samoa - it was Rebecca's first overseas holiday.

Mr Martin says they just weren't lucky enough to make the last yard or two before the waves hit.

The total tsunami death toll across the two Samoas and Tonga stands at 176. Seven of those - five adults and two children - were from New Zealand. Another New Zealand child is missing, presumed dead.