Survival mode in Savai’i

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi 17 February 2018, 12:00AM

For those in the remotest areas of Savai’i, who had no time or way to prepare for the onslaught of Tropical Cyclone Gita, coming together as a community and relying on each other was the only way of surviving.

Pei Matautu and her three children from Samalaeulu found themselves in a vulnerable position as they sought shelter with their neighbours in the middle of the night, during the most intense part of the cyclone.

“The day the cyclone came, we had no knowledge that it was coming because we have no radio or television to listen out for the warning and timing of the cyclone,” said Pei. 

“I was out visiting people in the village with another member of our church congregation, when we returned around 5 p.m, I saw that my children were starting to prepare and close up our house and tying things down."

“I was wondering why they were doing that but at that time that was when the wind was starting to pick up. Later that evening around 10, it was getting stronger and the roof above us started to lift up.”

At this time, Pei’s husband was in Apia with three of her children.

She lives in their home in Samalaeulu with their three younger children. Being by herself, she told the Sunday Samoan that she was worried about her children and stayed up vigilant.

“Eventually, in the back of our house the tin roof blew off completely and then the lau blew off too,” she said. “I knew that soon the roof above us would go too, so I quickly woke up my children and told them we were going to our neighbour’s house." 

“We went over and  we stayed there with our neighbours for the night and in the morning we came back to our house and saw that our property was damaged badly, especially the back of our house everything was destroyed there was nothing left.”

Pei relied on the hospitality and assistance of her neighbours during the time after the cyclone because her and her children tried their best to make do with what was left.

“It wasn’t until Wednesday that our neighbour, Tevaga and some men from my church, came over to help me and my children to salvage what was left and cleaned up our house as best as they could manage, thanks to them the front of the house is usable for me and my children to stay in."

“Right now we are just going to try and fix up the back area. The back has been cleared now up as far as we could and we are planning to build up the back of the house again and put a roof back on. Thankfully we had tarpaulins, we took them down during the cyclone so they didn’t get damaged.”

According to Pei, their water supply came back on that day and they were able to shower and have drinking water, but they were still waiting for their power to come back on. 

“We haven’t been harmed too much by the cyclone, but we are still in the dark, we haven’t got power yet, so we use the light from our cell phones at night time." 

“Our neighbours have power so during the day we take our phones over to their house and we charge them there.”

When asked who was going to help her with the rebuilding of their house, she replied saying she didn’t know and would wait and see.

While Pei is on her own with her three children and trying to fix things as best she could with the help of her neighbours, she remains positive and thankful that they are alive. 

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi 17 February 2018, 12:00AM

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