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Hurricane Devastates Three Islands In U.S. Territory

January 19, 1987

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (AP) _ Villagers on three remote islands of this U.S. territory slept in tents and lean-tos today and relied on coconuts for drinking water after a hurricane packing 110 mph winds injured about 100 people and left more than 2,000 homeless.

Hurricane Tusi on Sunday ravaged the South Pacific islands of Tau, Ofu and Osdosega, 60 miles east of here, hurling furniture and appliances through walls and flattening plantations that grew bananas, oranges, taro and breadfruit, said Aleni Ripine, spokesman for Gov. A.P. Lutali.

″The situation is very bad,″ Ripine said. ″About 95 pecent of the homes have been totally destroyed, and the others very badly damaged.″

He said the lowest damage estimate given so far was $80 million.

″Everything is flattened. It looks like the moon,″ photographer Geoffrey Van Kirk said after returning from Tau.

The Defense Department was asked to mobilize its Army Reserve unit in Pago Pago, and a call went out to American Red Cross chapters in Honolulu and San Francisco to airlift relief supplies.

A team of five doctors and 20 nurses from Lyndon B. Johnson Medical Center here went to the affected islands to treat the injured.

Thirty-seven of the most seriously hurt were sent here for treatment and at least 16 were admitted to the hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Ete Lutu said. Most of the injuries involved broken bones, she said.

A 48-year-old man from Tau was listed in serious condition in the center’s intensive care unit with fractured ribs and a punctured lung, Ms. Lutu said.

Territorial authorities asked the U.S. Interior Department, which has jurisdiction over American Samoa, to have President Reagan declare the chain of islands called Manua a disaster area.

Pumps that bring drinking water to the surface from wells were rendered useless by power failures, and the government was sending water aboard fishing boats, he said.

Islanders slept in shelters made of roofing materials and in tents provided by the government, while Pago Pago residents donated money, clothing and food, Ripine said.

The government was also sending teams of officials to deal with problems involving electrical power, agriculture, roads and schooling, he said.

The only village on the three islands not destroyed by the hurricane was on Ofu, where a motel and six guest huts were left standing near an airstrip, Ripine said.

At last report, the hurricane, with winds gusting to 150 mph, was 450 miles southeast of here, moving to the southeast at 15 mph with no islands in its path, said Air Force Maj. John Trumble in Honolulu.

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