At least 62 dead in American Samoa, six dead in Tonga
NEW YORK – At least 62 people are dead in American Samoa while six others have been killed in Tonga from a towering Tsunami that devastated towns and infrastructure, the United Nations said.
There are 19 unconfirmed deaths in the capital Pago Pago. UNICEF said there is going to be a shortage of food and shelter from the widespread devastation.
About 90 Hawaii National Guard members are on their way to American Samoa to help in the recovery efforts on the Pacific island, National Guard officials have announced.
The Hawaii Air Guard is slated to fly two C-17 Globemaster III transport jets to American Samoa today in response to Federal Emergency Management Agency requests, Air Force Maj. Rene White, a Pentagon spokeswoman, reported.
The aircraft will transport cargo and personnel required to support disaster relief efforts, she said.
Meanwhile, USS Ingraham, homeported at Naval Station Everett, Wash., is en route to provide needed support, White said. Ingraham is an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate.
Numerous DC-8 planes and other aircraft are being loaded with supplies at other U.S. bases to fly out personnel and supplies.
An 8.4 magnitude earthquake struck the Samoa Islands region on Sept. 29, which resulted in a destructive tsunami with 15-20 foot waves impacting the east side of American Samoa.
The rush of water exceeded flood levels about one mile into the island. Buildings suffered damage, and there were 24 casualties on American Samoa, according to local reports.
The only hospital on the island, LBJ Tropical Hospital, has reportedly exceeded maximum capacity.
For that reason, the Federal Emergency Management Agency asked for the Hawaii National Guard to provide personnel from their Civil Support Team, CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package, command and control element, and a mortuary affairs team.
“This support package was requested, put together and deployed in less than 24 hours,” said Jack Harrison, the director of communications and public affairs for the National Guard Bureau. “We do this every day. On average, more than a dozen governors every day will call on their National Guard to respond to contingencies that range from severe emergencies, like this, to white powder scares.”
These Guardmembers are expected to perform search and rescue missions, medical triage and treatment, command and control, and HAZMAT modeling support to the unified command team.
Harrison added that they will be self-sustaining for 96 hours, so they don’t burden the American Samoa infrastructure.
The Tafuna International Airport was initially closed due to debris on the runways. However, a runway is now open, which will allow military flights to bring in the personnel and equipment from Hawaii.
Two C-17 Globemasters from the 154th Wing, an associate unit based in Hawaii, are currently scheduled to fly to the island today.
“The state of Hawaii is assisting Gov. [Togiola] Tulafono in the recovery effort, including medical assistance, communications support and engineers,” Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said in a statement posted Sept. 29.