My immediate reaction when I heard news of the Tsunami was one of complete horror. Only 3 months ago we shared in the sadness of the loss of lives brought about by the sinking of Ashika and now we are looking at a possible loss of 100 plus lives across Pago Pago, Samoa and Tonga.
After hearing the news I rang my family in Samoa and my Tongan family in NZ. Both families are fine but in Samoa they were preparing to move to higher ground after a warning that another Tsunami would soon hit (that warning has since been dispelled). My Samoan family informed me that although they were all safe, my cousin’s mums family, had lost four family members. There are numerous other friends that immediately sprang to mind given the location of their families. We share in the grief with our families and friends who have lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Just like with Ashika, I am fortunate that my families in both Samoa and Tonga, have not been affected by the Tsunami, but I know my colleagues Sua William Sio and Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, are from villages that are situated closer to the water and in areas directly hit – last I heard, they were still waiting to hear that all is well with their aiga – my prayers are also with them.
It is at times like this that we are reminded of the vulnerability of our Pacific Countries – they are paradise to many, but highly susceptible to the unpredictability of mother-nature. Our Pacific communities both in NZ in the Pacific, have now been dealt a second devastating blow for the year and will require all of the support that NZ can muster. It is not just the heartfelt expressions of support that will be required – this is going to hit the pockets of our Pacific community hard. This year remittances to our Pacific countries have dropped off due to the recession and the subsequent high underemployment rates for Pacific people in NZ. Funerals and rebuilding houses and villages will not come cheap and the pressure that will be placed on our Pacific communities here in NZ will be immense.
I am sure that our NZ Govt will take the necessary steps to provide a high level of support – we have a legacy of doing this and I’m sure that legacy will continue. This is one of those issues that truly is bipartisan – we will of course support the Government in supporting our Pacific countries during this time.