Damage Being Assessed in American Samoa Hurricane
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (AP) _ The damage from Hurricane Ofa, which left hundreds of residents of this U.S. territory homeless, should reach at least $100 million, a state official said Tuesday.
Joyita Viena of Lt. Gov. Galeia Poumele’s office said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Administration expected to have a damage estimate by Wednesday.
The worst damage was reported in Western Samoa and Niue, about 450 miles to the south.
The Australian Associated Press said three people were killed in Western Samoa, which was declared a disaster area by its government.
Poumele, as acting governor, declared a state of emergency on Sunday. Gov. Peter Tali Coleman, who was attending a conference in Honolulu, returned to American Samoa on Monday night.
Power and water have been restored to parts of Pago Pago, the territorial capital, but most other areas still were without power and water Tuesday, Viena said. About two-thirds of the territory’s 38,000 residents were without power and water.
″We were very, very lucky the hurricane wasn’t any closer,″ said Bob Blauvelt, chief engineer for government television station KVZK. ″The center of the hurricane was 170 miles way and we still took it in the shorts.″
American Samoa began feeling the effects of Ofa on Friday, and wind speeds increased to 70 miles per hour with gusts to 125 miles per hour as the storm passed the territory to the west Saturday night, according to Coleman.
The center of the storm passed just 50 miles west of Savai’i, the westernmost island in Western Samoa, according to Rich Lay, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Honolulu.
The storm knocked out communications between American Samoa and Western Samoa, but Australian officials were able to provide some details.
There were sketchy reports of damage and injuries in the island nations of Niue, Tuvalu, Tonga, Wallis and Futuna and Tokelau.
Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans said Tonga as well as Wallis and Futuna had been hit badly.
The storm wrecked Niue’s hospital and forced the evacuation of 50 patients. Homes were damaged and palm trees uprooted while the storm whipped up huge seas, the New Zealand Press Association reported.
No deaths were reported there, but a fisherman was injured when his boat smashed onto rocks in heavy seas.
Australia sent a military C-130 Hercules transport plane with emergency supplies to Western Samoa. The New Zealand government also promised relief supplies.