Local ties in Hawaii help storm victims in Samoa

Published On: Dec 15 2012 05:32:41 PM HST   Updated On: Dec 15 2012 07:07:48 PM HST

Samoa has taken a beating from Cyclone Evan, which ripped through the island nation overnight.  At last count, four people were killed and at least 8 others were reported missing.

Those in Hawaii with family and friends in the region are already mobilizing help for those affected by the storm.  Gus Hannemann had been on the phone all morning on Saturday.  He said even getting through to elected officials in Samoa right now is a challenge.

"They call two or three times to make a connection, and that's American Samoa.  The other Samoa, trying to get a hold of (someone) is really tough," said Hannemann.

While Cyclone Evan spared most of American Samoa, the images now coming out from the independent state of Samoa show the widespread devastation left behind.

The death toll in Samoa has risen to four, with eight others missing after being swept away when Apia's main river burst its banks.  It has forced about 4,000 people to flee their homes.

"As you can see now, we've just found one body, male between the age of 30 and 40. We're now continuing our search for other missing people."

With winds of up to 100 mph, damage to homes and infrastructure has been extensive. Food and water is a big concern.

Hanneman has spearheaded local fundraisers before for disaster victims in American Samoa.
This time, he said money is the best way to help.

"Money and prayer, that's what we're telling people to do at the moment," said Hanneman.
Hannemann has been trying to find a company that will waive any transfer fees for those who want to send money to help victims in Samoa, but it's been difficult.

While the island nation is separated into two, help from the local Samoan community is unified for those left in the wake of Cyclone Evan.

"With Samoans here in Hawaii, we're all from both Samoa. You know, the Samoan saying, tu vailoa, which means 'both feet on both islands.' So we're very concerned if anything happens to either Samoa," said Hannemann.


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