Thousands forced to evacuation centres in Samoa
Tuesday 18 Dec 2012 6:01 p.m.
Police in Samoa have now found five bodies but say 12 other cyclone victims are still missing, and the number of people without homes has risen dramatically, with some 5500 people now forced to shelter in evacuation centres.
Disaster officials say the number of homeless could still increase as they are yet to reach all villages in Samoa.
Some places on the south coast have been cut off because of debris, flooding and damage to communication towers, and that's part of the reason a P3K Orion has been up in the air doing reconnaissance work along the coast.
The crew aboard the Orion has clocked up 22 hours of flying over the past two days, documenting the damage. Homes on the south coast are wrecked, and in the capital Apia, muddy flood waters still swamp surrounding villages.
"Today I took 500 photos and they go to MFAT and then they take them off to different agencies that have been working on the ground," says Air Ordinance officer Les Tokana.
On the ground in Apia people continue to salvage what they can, but frustration is growing. Rhyana Tolovaa's family lost three homes. She says not enough was done to warn people of the impending disaster.
"They said we have to prepare for the strong winds. They didn't say anything about a cyclone."
She wants the government to move quicker to help the thousands affected.
"We don't have anything. We don't have clothes, but the government still sits down, they don't come and help us."
The government is still assessing the damage but says people did get adequate warning.
"Twenty-four hours before the cyclone struck we have had radios and television warning our people about the cyclone and what to do," says Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Maliele Malielegaoi.
What's not in dispute is that Samoa has never experienced flash flooding on such a scale, and that cleaning up after it will take months and cost many millions of dollars.
More aid workers from the New Zealand Red Cross arrive early tomorrow morning. They'll be helping at some of the 38 evacuation centres that have been set up across the country.