Less than a week after the tsunami destroyed or damaged the homes of at least 2,000 families in American Samoa, workers from the American Red Cross began going village to village to assist people who may be without permanent housing for months and without electricity for a year or more.
“The government of American Samoa has identified all of the majorly damaged and destroyed residences with the number of people in those residences, sorted by villages,” reported Barbara Riester on Monday. Riester is the American Red Cross worker in charge of bulk distribution in response to the tsunami.
Deploying additional Red Cross workers and materials to support disaster relief activities half a world away can be a daunting task, especially for a nonprofit organization like the American Red Cross. In the past week, the Red Cross has worked closely to coordinate with its logistics support donors, including FedEx and with FEMA, Air Force and the Coast Guard to facilitate the transportation of Red Cross workers and supplies. That coordination continues as the Red Cross deploys recovery kits and other resources for the ongoing recovery efforts for the residents of American Samoa.
The Red Cross had a stocked warehouse of supplies on the island before the tsunami. Additional relief materials and Red Cross volunteers were flown to American Samoa by the 60th Air Mobile Wing at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. The latest shipment included 500 cases of SPAM canned meat products, 500 50-pound bags of rice and 1,000 cases of Ramen noodles, foods popular with island residents.
Thanks to the support from FEMA Region IX and the 60th Air Mobile Wing, 88 specially trained Red Cross volunteers have traveled to the island to augment the local relief effort. This is in addition to volunteers at the local Red Cross chapter, as well as the many local residents who spontaneously volunteered to help their neighbors. Riester, who is based in San Diego, is one of the Red Cross workers called to American Samoa to assist the Red Cross chapter and its volunteers on the island.
“We’re dealing with 70 villages that were affected, some more heavily damaged than others,” Riester said. “We are sending our people out to those villages in whatever vehicle we have available, from buses to cars.
“Today, we were able to reach two villages—one small, one larger. In the small village, we addressed the needs of two families with a total of 10 people. In the larger village, we helped 15 families with a total of 77 people,” she reported earlier this week.