Relief Supplies Arrive in American Samoa After Tsunami

An earthquake that originated in the sea off Indonesia's Sumatra island on Wednesday, Sept. 30, has left nearly one thousand dead and thousands more missing in the rubble. The day before, an earthquake spawned a tsunami that flattened villages in the Samoas.
By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 30, 2009; 3:25 PM

President Obama issued a major disaster declaration for the territory of American Samoa Tuesday evening, and the first U.S. relief flight to the tsunami-whipped Pacific islands touched down Wednesday, U.S. emergency officials said.

The C-130 cargo flight out of Hawaii carried supplies and emergency officials, and will be followed later Wednesday by a U.S. Navy frigate in the region and a second plane carrying carrying food, water, medicine and medical supplies and personnel, said W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"Our focus is on life safety, life sustainment and getting resources in there to support the governor and his team," Fugate said in a telephone briefing with reporters, referring to Gov. Togiola Tulafono. "Our focus is on the immediate needs of the injured and the thousands, tens of thousands of survivors down there," Fugate said.

An earthquake of a magnitude between 8.0 and 8.3 struck around dawn Tuesday local time about 120 miles from American Samoa, a section of the Samoa islands that is home to 65,000 people. The quake sent a massive tsunami to the shores of Samoa and American Samoa, leaving at least 99 dead and dozens missing.

Tulafono asked for food, water, temporary shelters and support for the territory main hospital, the LBJ Tropical Medical Center in Faga'alu, Fugate said.

The U.S. response will be constrained by time and distance. American Samoa is roughly 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii and 4,500 miles from the west coast of the United States, Fugate said.

U.S. officials said they expect to provide relief materials for weeks by sea as well as more urgent materials by air. "This will not be a short-term response based on reports of damage," Fugate said.

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