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Apia a "ghost town" as tsunami shock sets in

ABC RADIO AUSTRALIA Updated 5 hours 15 minutes ago

The mood in Samoa is still one of shock, according to Russell Hunter, the editor of the Samoa Observer. He says damage reports are still coming in, but the capital, Apia, resembled a ghost town this morning, as residents evacuated to higher ground. Businesses and government offices were closed today, as people concentrated on taking care of their families and neighbours. Mr Hunter says one of his newspaper's senior journalists, Mataafa Keni Lesa, saw the tragedy of the tsunami at first hand when he came across two injured babies while reporting from the field, and tried to get them to a medical centre. They died before they could get attention though. Russell Hunter says the impact of the tsunami is overwhelming the emergency services.

Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Editor of the Samoa Observer newspaper, Russell Hunter

Listen:Windows Media


HUNTER: Emergency services have responded quickly and quite well. The problem is the disaster is now of such magnitude that we can tell that they just don't have the resources to deal with it adequately. I must say there are reports of genuine heroics by the emergency services teams.

HILL: What kind of stories?

HUNTER: Oh, injured people being helped, just people who need help are finding it support I would say rather than help at this stage.

HILL: Is the government able to assist or are people doing this more or less spontaneously and helping their neighbours and people in the same village, that sort of thing?

HUNTER: Yes, there is very much of that going on. But the police were very active this morning and cleared the centre of Apia pretty quickly and pretty efficiently and told people they must move to higher ground or there was fear of another tsunami on this side of the island at that time.

HILL: So, what does Apia look like at the moment?

HUNTER: Hmm, it's a bit of a ghost town. There is not much moving or at least there wasn't an hour ago. I suspect people would be starting to drift back to whatever they were doing now.

HILL: What has the government been able to do in the way of organising relief efforts?

HUNTER: Very little so far and I don't think we can blame them for that. The area is now difficult to get to. One of our reporters was out there told me that the coastal road is just about gone and he struggled to get through to one of the more affected villages and reports scenes of great tragedy there.

HILL: Are emergency services operating?

HUNTER: Yes, they are.

HILL: And what about normal government services? Are government offices open or have they closed?

HUNTER: They have closed. As I said, the whole of Apia was evacuated and I could not even get to town. Our office is situated outside of town, but we did manage to get some reporters in there, who said the police just told them no, go away it is to dangerous.

HILL: So who is in charge at the moment, the government offices are closed down, who is giving orders?

HUNTER: The police and the emergency services. Some of those villages have managed to make contact with a radio station and they have appealed for medical personnel, medicines and shelter. Kenny himself picked up two doctors to try and get them in there when he was on his way. He also picked up two very badly injured small babies to try and get them to the health station at Loloamanu I am very sad to say that those two babies died in his car before he could get them there.

HILL: What's the mood like among ordinary Samoans? How are the people responding?

HUNTER: I think there's shock as the enormity of the situation becomes apparent, there's very genuine shock and dismay.

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