30 Sep 2010

Pacific tsunami anniversary remembered

5:03 pm on 30 September 2010

Villages in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga are remembering the day when lives, homes and businesses were destroyed by a tsunami a year ago.

Some 186 people were killed - 143 in Samoa, 34 in American Samoa and nine in Tonga on 29 September 2009 (American Samoa time).

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Villages in Samoa are unveiling plaques in remembrance of those who died and families are having their own private unveilings later in the day.

Church services have been timed to coincide with the time the tsunami occurred.

Some villages have asked that people not swim in the sea as a sign of respect for the dead.

The anniversary also marks the official opening of Satitoa primary school, which was demolished by the waves. It has been rebuilt in the village on higher ground.

While beach fales are now re-built, the majority of those returning to the coast are tourists.

Many homes wrecked by the sea remain as they were after the tsunami hit, with entire villages abandoning the coast for higher ground.

In American Samoa, 29 September has been declared a public holiday. In Tonga, the anniversary will be commemorated with church services and a day of fasting.

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People still living in tents

Re-building is continuing in Tonga and American Samoa.

However, the building of 80 permanent homes on Nuiatotputapu on Tonga is yet to even begin.

Forty-five temporary houses in Falehau and Waipoa have been completed, but people in Hihifo are still in tents and in need of water supplies.

In American Samoa, most people qualifying for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are still waiting for permanent housing.

Only five homes have been completed, with 38 houses yet to be built. Families are still living in tents.