Cyclone Evan Victims at Evacuation Centres tell their stories

Penina Leleisiuao & grand daughter Ena Tauasa made it through the flood

Story & photos by Unumoe Esera

APIA: MONDAY 17 DECEMBER 2012: The aftermath of Cyclone Evan has had a devastating effect on many families. Residents from the villages of Savalalo, Matautu, Vaipuna, Moata’a and those residing at the area near Apia Park evacuated their homes and now take shelter at Samoa College.

Ena Tauasau, 16 years old  from Matautu-Uta told of her terrifying experience through the cyclone and flooding last Thursday.

“We didn’t know what time the flood entered our house as some of my family members were erecting a large tent outside when all of a sudden we felt the water surround us in the house. We then ran outside and got into our car and drove off. When we visited the next day, there was water and mud inside our house,” she said.

When Ena’s family drove off they were caught up by the river when they passed the old ANZ Bankbranch at Matautu. The water seeped into the car and her 73 year old grandmother Penina Leleisi’uao drifted out of the car and a man who is an employee of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) saved her grandmother.

They then jumped out of the car as it was quickly filling up with water.

“The UNDP man stopped his car and brought us here to Samoa College. This was around 2am in the morning. When we left our home it was 6pm in the evening.

It was only five minutes since the flood broke out and then it flowed right through our house as it came from the Loto Samasoni and Vasigano Rivers,” she said.

Ena said this is the first time she has experienced something like this in her life.

“I was calm during the cyclone but I was afraid when the flood came,” she said.

Couple & 13 children living at Samoa College
Another victim of the floods is 43 year old Eliapo Lautogia from Apia Park who is now living with his wife and 13 children at the Samoa College evacuation centre.

“We are living here for the time being as we have nowhere else to stay,” he said.

“There is a water truck that comes once a day and sometimes it doesn’t come at all. But the water is not enough. We haven’t had water for three days now and they only give one large bottle of water per family and where we are staying there are four families in one classroom,” said Eliapo.

Eliapo Lautogia and his wife reflecting on their experience at the Samoa College evacuation centre

As for the destruction to his home he said that there is no roof as it was blown away, their clothes have been washed away even their clothes chest and kitchenware.

“The mud is thick and the house has been flooded with water. It wasn’t even five minutes since the flood came and our house was affected. We didn’t even know when the water reached the Apia Park. If it wasn’t for the trees that sheltered our house we would have been dead by now,” he said.

When the flood came Eliapo said all the adults grabbed a child and started making their way through the water.

“My father’s sister and some of the young men from my family at the back houses came and carried the children upon their shoulders and walked through the flood. We threw a rope so we could hang on to it and make our way through the water.

“We tried calling the police and the Fire and Emergency Services but they didn’t come. We then went to the Apia Park Gym as it is a two storey house but it wasn’t safe either. Red Cross then called us to come to Samoa College as it is safe and secure,” he said.

Eliapo said his wife fell down while she was holding their baby and making her way through the flood. The baby was taken to the hospital for the water to be pumped out of her nostrils but she was now back with them at the school.

He said this is the first time he has experienced something like this. “Cyclone Evan was very strong and caused a lot of flooding.” Eliapo has been back to their house twice since the cyclone and is glad to be taking up shelter at Samoa College.

“My family is scared to go back home as we might contract diseases as it smells really bad there. Everyone living near the Apia Park area is here at Samoa College too,” he said.

He estimates that there are over 40 families from the Apia Park area and Moata’a now living at Samoa College. Some of the people who have helped Eliapo’s family is Red Cross Samoa and the Catholic church and the church members from Moata’a and Vaivase.

Asked how he felt during the cyclone he said, “I didn’t know what to do, the kids were crying and I thought to myself if we are going to die so be it as I thought then we would not be able to make it through the flood,” said Eliapo.

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