The fire at one of three large fuel tanks at the Matautu Wharf yesterday was a timely wake up call for Samoa.
If anything, it clearly exposed just how vulnerable we all are to the consequences of something like that happening, especially when we are least prepared for it.
The fact that a life has been lost is a real tragedy. It’s a sad day for everyone. As we come to grips with the reality of what happened yesterday, spare a thought for the family of the man killed as a result of the fire.
Whisper a prayer for him today.
We also pray for the speedy recovery of all other victims of the fire – including the firemen – who were hospitalised yesterday as a result of what had happened.
But know this Samoa.
We are very blessed that the death toll is not higher. We say this because contrary to what will be said, that could have been a lot worse.
The simple fact is that the whole of Apia was at risk from a major catastrophe. That includes the possibility that the Matautu wharf could have blown up destroying everything on and near it.
Thousands of lives could have been at risk, not to mention properties, businesses and families who live on Beach Road.
And knowing the strategic importance of the wharf to livelihoods and businesses, imagine what could have become of Samoa if we had woken up this morning to find that there was no wharf at all?
Indeed, as the firefighters battled the blaze from the tank yesterday, the mind couldn’t stop wondering what could have happened had the fire spread to the other two tanks.
What could have happened if there was another explosion?
We couldn’t stop thinking about those poor firefighters and emergency workers in the area. They were clearly exposed and vulnerable.
And so was everyone else in the Apia area.
Today, there is reason to be thankful.
There is reason to rejoice.
Why? Although we have lost a precious life, we know deep down inside that many more lives have just been spared. But we cannot be complacent.
Some serious questions must be asked about how yesterday’s incident came about. There must be a Commission of Inquiry into how it happened and how to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Safety is paramount and that is where the focus should be. It is why every effort must be made to get to the bottom of what happened yesterday to ensure that the incident is not repeated.
We repeat, Samoa was lucky yesterday.
But the next time, we might not be.
And that’s something nobody wants.
At this point, we want to acknowledge the hard work of the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (F.E.S.A), the Disaster Advisory Committee, the Police, health workers and everyone who risked their life to help. Thank you for your commitment to Samoa.
In moments like this, as a community, we must come together and give thanks, acknowledge the hand of God and the work by our fellow people.
But there are some serious questions about safety that must be addressed. And that should be the focus from now onwards.
There is absolutely no guarantee that what happened yesterday will not happen again.
Absolutely none. And that’s a real worry.