Bay Area volunteers are pitching in to aid tsunami victims in the Samoan Islands in a variety of ways, including collecting supplies for impacted residents and joining the first group of American mainland volunteers to land on the island.
A roughly 8.0-magnitude earthquake underwater caused a tsunami in the Samoan Islands Tuesday, and American Samoa has reported flooding, fatalities, and major damage to buildings and infrastructure.
President Barack Obama declared the tsunami a major disaster on Wednesday and promised to provide the tools for a "full, swift and aggressive response."
Patsy Tito, director of the Samoan Community Development Center in San Francisco, estimated there are about 10,000 natives of Samoa and American Samoa in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The center is coordinating donations with Samoan churches, and contributions of money or clothing can be dropped off between 9 a.shall High School are also gathering food, clothing, and money to send to Samoan villages.
The students, many of whom have relatives in Samoa or of Samoan descent, are asking community member's to bring items to the school's main office at 45 Conkling St.
Some volunteers are even going to Samoa to help with relief efforts, including a member of the Red Cross from Mill Valley.
Jim Stephenson - a long-time Red Cross volunteer who has served in international disasters including flooding in India, earthquakes in Iran and Pakistan, and tteers, according to the Red Cross.
Red Cross workers stationed in Samoa and American Samoa are already responding, and a warehouse in American Samoa is handing out food, water and other supplies. The warehouse also has cots, flashlights, cooking supplies and cleaning supplies, and additional supplies are being transported as quickly as possible.
The local airport is operational, but all commercial flights have been canceled. The Red Cross is working with government and non-government partners to secure transportation for volunteers ando head to the islands once transportation issues have been resolved.
Power outages are common on the islands and receiving information is difficult, the Red Cross said. Those who have been able to contact friends and family in American Samoa are encouraged to register them on the Red Cross Safe and Well Web site at www.redcross.org.
American Samoa is a U.S. territory located about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. Its capital city, Pago Pago, was hit with multiple tsunami waves reaching 5.1 feet, according to the Red Cross. Numerous aftershocks ranging in magnitude from 4.8 to 5.8 continued throughout today.
The Samoan Islands wethe German territory became the Independent State of Samoa, while islands of the U.S. territory are referred to as American Somoa. American Samoa has about 66,000 residents according to the CIA; Samoa has almost 220,000.
Bay City News