Decay and disease in post-tsunami Samoa

Peter Bendinelli, Caritas Samoa

When you see flatbed trucks coming into the town with dead bodies on the back… I mean I’ve seen this on television before in different parts of the world, but never I expected to see it here in my lifetime in Samoa.

There are obviously bodies that haven’t been found and you know, you don’t know where to begin. The first thing is to make sure that all the bodies have been found. There are still quite a few missing unfortunately and that’s very hard for people, not knowing whether their family is dead or alive or where they are, so most people are searching for them right now.

That’s part of the shock: a mother or a brother or a father or a sister not being here to mourn the loss of a very close family member is very hard for a Samoan to accept.

It’s well over 30 degrees every day and things decay very, very quickly so you have to bury the dead as quickly as possible.

The people are just standing around. Where do you start? There’s no starting point… you don’t have water. Where do you start to rebuild? Where do you start to clean up, people are just shell-shocked.

Water is the main problem there. Without water no one can work very long in this heat and the sun. The main thing is they’re worried about diseases that come just from a lack of water. If you can’t wash your hands and you wipe your brow you’ll be getting bacteria into your eyes and they’re very concerned about eye infections and things.

I’ve never experienced a frontline tragedy like this before in my life and I’m just appalled.

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Filed under Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Oceania, Samoa

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