1 Oct 2009

NZ Prime Minister to visit Samoa

8:19 pm on 1 October 2009

The New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, is to head to Samoa this weekend to assess the tsunami damage firsthand.

Mr Key, who's been holidaying in the United States, will return to Auckland on Saturday and then fly out to Samoa a few hours later.

He says while officials have kept him regularly informed, it's important he sees the extent of the damage himself.

Mr Key says his visit will be brief as he is mindful that essential life-saving work is going on on the ground, and he doesn't want his visit to distract from that.

The Prime Minister will return to New Zealand on Sunday.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister has announced an initial one million New Zealand dollars donation for immediate disaster relief efforts in Samoa and Tonga.

Murray McCully says this initial contribution will help the governments of Samoa and Tonga to provide essential supplies and personnel to help those in need following the earthquake and tsunami.

He says the money will also go to organisations such as the Red Cross and other New Zealand NGOs who are already delivering aid in affected areas.

He said New Zealand was continuing to coordinate with Australia, France, and the international community on how to can best respond to the needs of Samoa and Tonga.

A statement said it was clear there were going to be considerable recovery and reconstruction needs, and that New Zealand was committed to offering substantial assistance.

The New Zealand Government is mobilising more relief for Samoa.

Two Hercules will be doing a ferrying operation with emergency supplies and the Navy is preparing its multi-role vessel the Canterbury to carry more equipment.

The Acting Prime Minister Bill English says it's in for the long haul in helping Samoa rebuild after its devastating tsunami and some funding decisions will be made later today.

The United Nations Development Programme is working on distributing help packages for victims of yesterday's tsunami in Samoa.

The UN's Resident Coordinator for Samoa and resident representative Nileema Nobel says within hours of the disaster, a team was deployed on the ground to assess the immediate needs of the victims and transport them to the hospital.

She says the UNDP has partnered up with other support groups to provide assistance to the Samoan government in providing the immediate needs of the people.

"What is very clear from the field right now is there is need for portable water, sanitation, tarpaulins, medical assistance to the affected people. And therefore that is immediate humanitarian support that is needed."

Nileema Nobel says the UNDP is also working on providing the government with the necessary technical assistance and money to cope with the aftermath of the disaster.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has expressed through a statement his deep sadness of the loss of life, injuries and destruction of property.

The European Commission's Humanitarian Office or ECHO has donated almost 220,000 US dollars to help victims of yesterday's tsunami in Samoa.

The Head of the South Pacific delegation Wievke van der Goot says the European Commission was shocked to hear about the disaster and reacted promptly to donate the funds to the International Federation of the Red Cross to meet the most immediate needs.

We do not stop there. We have our man in Apia who happened to be in Fiji to attend our regional seminar and he has gone back to Apia to discuss with the authorities what exactly needs to be done and which way we can assist further to help Samoa with these floods.

Next week's games in the football Under 20 Women's Championship in New Zealand have been deferred because of yesterday's disaster.

The Oceania Football Confederation made the announcement after reports out of American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga.

American Samoa and Tonga had been scheduled to take part in the championship along with the Cook Islands and New Zealand to determine Oceania's representative at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Germany next July.

The games are now to be played in January.

Two New Zealand mobile phone companies are now offering free calls to Samoa.

Vodafone says for the next two days calls to Samoa made from its mobiles and landlines will be free.

2degrees is offering its customers free calls to Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga for the next two weeks.