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One Month Ago, American Samoa Struck by Tragedy
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October 29, 2009

On September 29, a tsunami swept across the island of American Samoa after a powerful earthquake hit the South Pacific. Soon after, the American Red Cross conducted relief efforts in the area. According to news reports, four tsunami waves about 15 to 20 feet high came ashore after the earthquake. American Samoa, a group of seven islands about 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii, is a United States territory that makes up the Samoan group of islands in the center of Polynesia, along with the independent country of Western Samoa.

Tamatua Leo opens a crank powered Radio/Flashlight/Cellphone charger provided by the Red Cross in a Jumpstart to Recovery Kit. American Samoa.
Tamatua Leo opens a crank powered Radio/Flashlight/Cellphone charger provided by the Red Cross in a Jumpstart to Recovery Kit. American Samoa.
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In the initial phase of the response, dozens of Red Cross volunteers provided food and supplies to islanders via a warehouse on American Samoa supplied with cots, flashlights, and cooking and clean-up supplies.

“In the past four weeks, the Red Cross served more than 65,000 people and contributed more than 84,000 bulk items – cleaning supplies, disaster kits, and other supplies - to meet the immediate needs of those affected.” states Joe Becker, senior vice president of Disaster Services for the American Red Cross. “Now comes the difficult task of long-term recovery for the people of American Samoa.”

Over the course of the last month, nearly 300 Red Cross workers representing chapters on American Samoa, Hawaii and the U.S. mainland, were dispatched to distribute supplies to villages across the island.

Relief materials and volunteers were flown to American Samoa by the 60th Air Mobile Wing at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.

As part of the relief efforts, the Red Cross provided Jumpstart to Recovery Kits to help meet the needs of the disaster victims. Each kit contained two blankets, a combination hand-crank radio, flashlight and cell phone charger, a mesh laundry bag, a first aid kit, note pad and pen, work gloves, face masks and a bath-in-a-bag all in one convenient, durable Red Cross backpack

Diapers, baby formula, towels, brooms and feminine hygiene products, all of which were in short supply on the island, were delivered. Shipments by UPS, a member of the Annual Disaster Giving Program of the American Red Cross, included bolts of fabric that could be cut into lava-lava—the traditional skirt-like garment that is worn by men and women on American Samoa.

Red Cross specialists in mental health and spiritual care worked with members of the faith-based community on American Samoa, helping children from preschool to high school deal with the loss of family members and classmates.

Partner organizations also teamed up with the Red Cross to specifically address the needs of children, whether for physical safety, specialized food and clothing, or attention to mental health and spiritual care. Their efforts are highlighted in this video.

The Red Cross and Save the Children - a partner organization for more than two years—stocked and staffed a “Safe Space” play area in the convention center where families lined up to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance. Catholic Charities, a long-time partner of the Red Cross, helped to sort and deliver clothing donations and repackage specialty supplies that included school supplies and Mickey Mouse dolls.

American Samoans are now facing the reality of long-term recovery and the process of repairing their lives.

Visit the Disaster Online Newsroom to see videos and to read more about the Red Cross response in American Samoa.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

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