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Mother calls on Govt. to help stranded sailors

A mother of five, whose husband is among hundreds of Samoan sailors stranded on different cruise-ships overseas as a result of coronavirus pandemic, is calling on the Government to bring back their loved ones. 

Vaifou Falepau Tulia, from Nofoali’i, says since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been very little help from the Government to repatriate Samoan sons being kept at sea. 

Her husband is Falepau Niu Tulia of Nofoali’i and Vaipua. He is among Samoan sailors working on MSC Armonia stranded at the Bahamas.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Mrs. Tulia is urging Government to spare some funds from overseas donors given to the country for COVID-19 to bring back the sailors. 

The mother who constantly talks to her husband on messenger alleges that her husband claimed there are several Samoan sailors that are infected with the coronavirus. This has brought fear on the mother and many other relatives of the sailors that are unable to return home due to a global closure on borders. 

“We are fasting everyday for our relatives at sea and our only plea to Government is please don’t forget about our loved ones out there,” said the mother from Nofoali’i. 

“I hear about the funds from overseas for COVID-19 and we hope that the Government can spare some of those funds to pay for a charter flight or even a vessel to get the sailors here.  

“Even if they have to stay at our shores for weeks to be quarantined but at least we know they are near home and are not left in the middle of nowhere to die, far from their homeland and family.”

According to the Samoa Shipping Services update in April, there are 321 Samoan sailors that are on cruise ships and working container vessels overseas. 

The mother reminded Government of their promise every year to the men including new graduates from Maritime before they depart that they will be taken care of.   

“Every time the men go overseas the Prime Minister and Government officials often hold big ceremony to farewell them,” she said. 

“They leave knowing they will be getting income is to improve their families and will also help our country. But since the pandemic our family including other sailors families have been given very little hope that they will be returning home anytime soon...”  

Mrs. Tulia also spoke about fearing for her husband’s life saying he had a near death experience in April while he was preparing to leave for Samoa. 

For two weeks Mrs. Tulia didn’t hear from her husband. 

She later found out that he had a heart attack and had to wait for help to airlift him in Miami to get treatment from the local hospitals. 

He had since been returned to the cruise ship with other sailors to wait for their respective Government’s response to return them home. 

 “That is my biggest fear is that he will get another incident and it will be too late to airlift him to land,” said the mother. 

“He is the breadwinner for our family but we are no longer receiving any money because they are not getting paid again. 

“My husband told me that the food is not the same there is very little left on board and supply has been short since the pandemic.” 

One of the sailors on board the MSC Armonia together with Mrs. Tulia’s husband is Puletiu Pao Taulapapa. 

In a video made by Puletiu and circulated on Facebook on Friday, the sailor says they are in desperate need of help from the Government.

Puletiu said they have been stranded at sea near countries that have high infection cases for the last three months.

The sailor who had his contract finished during the pandemic says they feel sick being at sea. 

He said many other sailors from other countries have been repatriated by their Government leaving the Samoans sailors isolated on the cruiseship. 

“We no longer have jobs, no money, no connection with our children and parents,” said Puletiu. 

“We are here at sea waiting for the time for the virus to arrive and we will die. We call on the Government and our country to please help your sons who are stranded at sea and desperately want to come home to Samoa…” 

The sailor claims that since they have been at sea with borders closed they are affected mentally, physically and spiritually. 

He said the sailors at sea had been keeping up to date with programmes from the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi who announced that Samoa is prepared to respond to COVID-19. 

“We are informed from the programmes where the Prime Minister says that our Ministry of Health is well prepared in its response and doctors have been posted to district hospitals,” he said. 

“We also know that when travelers arrive in Samoa they need to be quarantined at Faleolo district hospital for 14 days. 

“The question is why can’t we come home to our home, your sons who are Samoan citizens and hold Samoan passports and are suffering desperately want to come home.” 

The General Manager of the Samoa Shipping Services, Lautimuia Afoa Vaai, says the Government is working on bringing the sailors home when it can be done. (see other story)



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