5 Oct 2009

Private funerals in Samoa problematic after tsunami

11:20 am on 5 October 2009

Families in Samoa who wish to bury their loved ones privately are being warned of the difficulties of getting the bodies released from the morgue.

The Samoan government is to put on a mass funeral for the victims of the tsunami, with about half of the bodies expected to be buried in a communal service on Thursday, Samoa time.

Aucklander Ben Taufua has had the bodies of his family released from the morgue for private burial.

But he says the government's mass funeral proposal made the process difficult, and it wasn't clear how those who didn't want to participate in the public funeral would be able to acccess the bodies.

The confirmed combined death toll for the tsunami across three islands is 176, 135 of them in Samoa.

Aid workers in Samoa say directing water to where it's needed most is proving difficult, as the tsunami relief effort continues.

New Zealand's Defence Force is still trying to identify the best place to locate a portable water purification plant, to benefit the most people.

In the meantime, the Red Cross says it's tough getting water to those in hilly, makeshift villages who are too scared to return home.

The spokesperson for the organisation, Rosemary North, says the Red Cross and Fire Service are trucking water daily to people in those areas.

Ms North says today is Sunday in Samoa so relief distributions will stop out of respect for a day of mourning and prayer.

New Zealand's Pacific Island Advisory Council has called on the Manukau City Council to assist with relief aid for tsunami victims.

The Advisory Council says it has entered into negotiations with the City Council to provide containers to send to the thre islands affected, Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga's Niuatoputapu.

Last night, the Lotofalei'a Tongan Methodist Church in the Auckland suburb of Mangere held a memorial service.

Salote Heleta Lilo of the Advisory Council was at the function and says it's hoped the containers will benefit tsunami victims in Tonga and Samoa.