Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Australian describes tsunami aftermath

An Australian woman living in American Samoa has described the terrifying scenes as the island was battered by a strong earthquake and a deadly tsunami.

Perth woman Sue Whitby and her husband David were woken up about 6.48am (local time) by a powerful 8.3-magnitude quake shaking their Pago Pago home.

"Our china cabinet was rattling so much that my husband was holding onto that and I was holding on to him," she told ABC News Online.

"It was terrifying and it seemed to last for two or three minutes; it was really frightening."

When the earthquake finally finished rocking her home, just when she thought she was safe, the tsunami warning bells began to ring throughout the town.

"We knew not to go out after we heard that," she said.

Ms Whitby, who has been living in Pago Pago for 12 months, says much of the power is still out, the airport is closed due to the debris, the roads are blocked and the hospital is flooded.

And even though the tsunami danger has passed, the death and destruction is all too clear.

Ms Whitby is still stuck in her home, which is luckily on higher ground, but she is hearing horrible stories from the outside about the deadly disaster.

She says her friend's brother was driving a bus when the earthquake struck.

"Water came in and his bus ended up being flooded," she said.

"He ended up in a mango tree and four of his passengers are missing from the bus."

Her neighbour's cousin was killed when the nearby village of Leone was destroyed.

"The village Leone, not far from us, had about six people die ... my neighbour's cousin was killed," she said.

Another friend's godmother was also killed.

Lucky escape

Ms Whitby lives in the higher part of Pago Pago - about 100 feet above ground - but she could see the rising seas from her neighbour's balcony.

"I do feel sorry for the people living low, just so many people have been affected," she said.

"A lot of houses have been flooded, businesses may not even open again. It's just a shock really."

She says many businesses in low-lying areas of Pago Pago have been destroyed.

Her husband works at the American Samoa ANZ bank and now that the tsunami warning has passed, he has ducked out to survey the damage.

"The branch at Pago Pago, which is still a distance from the harbour, got flooded," she said.

"The staff evacuated to the top of the hills behind the branch."

She says the government has called on people with machinery to come and help clear the roads.

Ms Whitby says even though the skies are clear and "beautiful" now, she fears the death toll is only going to rise.

"It really is a beautiful day now, I think the danger has now passed, " she said.

"But there's still so many people missing, it's going to be some time before we know the true figure."

Monday, September 28, 2009


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