Oakland, Calif. -- One year ago today a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck American Samoa and caused extensive damage and loss of life. The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has worked side-by-side with the survivors since the tragedy, and today the leadership and employees of FEMA offer their heartfelt condolences and a shared optimism for the future to the people of American Samoa still struggling to put their lives back together.
Though much has been done to help American Samoa recover, there is still a long way to go before the island returns to its "new normal."
A year ago today, help for the survivors was en-route within hours of the earthquake and tsunami.
FEMA, in partnership with the American Samoa Government (ASG) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), launched recovery efforts within a day of the disastrous tsunami, which killed 32 people and left two missing.
The series of towering waves also disabled the local power plants; destroyed 248 homes and 28 rental units; and damaged another 2,750 dwellings. One school was destroyed and another four suffered substantial damage. Roads, bridges, churches, and everything in the waves' paths were damaged to varying degrees. The small island and its 65,000 residents were left with the daunting task of rebuilding their island.
"It wasn't just a FEMA team that responded to American Samoa," said FEMA Regional Administrator Nancy Ward, whose region oversees and coordinates federal relief efforts in American Samoa. "It was all members of our federal family, the American Samoan government, and faith-based and volunteer organizations who were crucial to the success of the response and recovery efforts. Most of all, the American Samoan people showed tremendous resolve and determination to do whatever it took to get this island and their lives back on track."
In the past year, FEMA and its federal and voluntary agency partners, in lockstep with the ASG, have provided the following assistance to the island and its residents:
- Obligated more than $37 million in FEMA's Individual Assistance programs. This includes assistance under various FEMA programs, including Housing Assistance, Other Needs Assistance (dental, medical, moving, storage) and a variety of other needs.
- Obligated more than $15 million to the ASG to rebuild public infrastructure, mitigate against future disasters and reimburse the American Samoa government for some of the money spent during the initial response.
- In consultation with the ASG, FEMA determined that the best, most appropriate housing solution for the survivors of the American Samoa tsunami whose homes were completely destroyed was to construct permanent housing. As the construction of permanent housing in an area that is both remote and insular was a new mission for FEMA, the agency initiated a pilot program utilizing Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act authorities and planned two phases of construction.
- Phase one, which is complete, required the construction of eight homes and ten additional site preparations. All eight homes are now occupied.
- The contract for phase two is expected to be awarded in October with ground-breaking expected to follow shortly thereafter. Thirty-three homes are expected to be constructed in phase two. Overall, the entire pilot program currently stands at 41 homes.
Immediately following the earthquake and tsunami, FEMA and its partners were able to quickly employ an "air bridge" to bring in planeloads of resources, including generators, tents, medical teams and supplies. Other assistance in the early days and weeks included:
- Volunteer partners helped with repairs to damaged homes
- U.S. Army corps of Engineers ...