Savai'i families cut off by rising rivers

Some Savai’i families who went about their normal business on Sunday after the sky cleared have been cut off from their homes, after heavy rain in the afternoon led to the water level at the Mali'oli'o River and Sasina fiord rising to dangerous levels to cut off traffic.

Residents on the big island said the weather changed in the afternoon after sunshine and blue sky in the morning gave them the impression that the storm was over and it was okay to venture out.

The cutting off of access through the Sasina fiord is preventing travel to the other side of the island, according to the resident.

Residents from Letui and Aopo – who attended a church gathering at Faletagaloa Safune on Sunday evening – are stranded and unable to travel home when the heavy rain raised the water levels. 

Resident So'oalo Liki Selulo, who was at Samalaeulu trying to get to the other side on Sunday evening, said it was unsafe to travel across to the other side of the island. 

"It will be hard for people and students to get across for work and school tomorrow, especially when the warnings for heavy rain, strong winds, landslides and high tides remain effective for Samoa,” he said. "I am a teacher too and I believe in these situations, safety should be our priority. Don't take the risk of trying to cross the river when you're putting lives in danger."

The Mali'oli'o River in Samalaeulu is one of the country’s most dangerous rivers, having claimed lives over the years, especially of people who dared to cross while it was at dangerously high levels after heavy rain. 

Residents in Savai’i are looking forward to the completion and opening of the  Mali'oli'o bridge next month, which will go a long way in providing safe and convenient transport access for the public. 

With the downgrading of the Category 1 Tropical Cyclone Wasi to strong winds on Sunday, schools look set to resume tomorrow after a four-day closure last week. 

But the attendance of students in Savai’i, who live in villages that use the river and the fiord as their only form of access, is now in doubt with water levels at both the Mali'oli'o River and Sasina fiord at dangerous levels. 

The Samoa Meteorological Service has forecast heavy rains and strong winds to continue for Savai'i. 

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