P.M. declares Wednesday a public holiday
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi has declared this Wednesday a public holiday.
November 7 falls this Wednesday and will mark 100 years since the arrival of New Zealand passenger and cargo ship Talune in Apia from Auckland.
The ship had passengers suffering from the highly infectious pneumonic influenza, and they spread the disease to the local population, killing approximately 8500 people back then.
The Prime Minister said in commemoration of that day and the tragic turn of events in 1918, he is declaring this Wednesday a public holiday.
“A special service will be held in Vaimoso where the massive grave is located as a result of the epidemic. Also this day the Government along with the New Zealand Government will break ground on a project to make these graves a landmark.”
He said there are other graves across Samoa as a result of the epidemic.
However, the gravesite in Vaimoso stands out hence the decision of the Government to have the ceremony there.
“At the time of the influenza Samoa’s population in 1918 was around 38,000 and a quarter of the population was wiped out. We estimated that it’s close to 10,000.
“However, I know there are unrecorded deaths and I believe it is much more than 10,000 people that were affected and died from this epidemic,” he said.
The Prime Minister used the occasion to caution against having sick pets around humans, as he said the flu viruses that cause pandemics originated from animal infection.
“Usual process is that sick people should have been quarantined, and be treated in an isolated area, hence the importance of having the hospital in Faleolo.
“Three years ago, a passenger from Australia arrived in Samoa and we were informed the passenger had Ebola, he was treated in an isolated area and as soon as the passenger was able to travel, he was on his merry way back to Australia,” he added.
The Prime Minister said the colonial administration back in those days did not follow procedures, as the passengers of the ship could have been quarantined.
“John Boya of the U.S. Navy also offered medication to cure the flu at the time, given at the time there was no medication in Samoa, due to the stupid move by the administration then - who refused to accept assistance from neighboring island,” he said.
According to a 1947 United Nations report, pneumonic influenza that was spread to Samoa in 1918 was ranked “one of the most disastrous epidemics recorded anywhere in the world during the present century, so far as the proportion of deaths to the population is concerned”.