American Samoa declares state of emergency over severe storms

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American Samoan storms
American Samoan storms ... the school and church in Aunu'u island were swamped by huge waves, the building housing the generators on the island were flooded and sustained damage. Image: RNZ

RNZ Pacific

A state of emergency has been declared in American Samoa because of severe weather conditions resulting in damage to roads, infrastructure, property, and coastal villages.

American Samoa Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga declared the state of emergency after homes, the school and church on Aunu’u island were swamped by huge waves, the building housing the generators on the island were flooded and sustained damage.

Several sections of the road are not accessible on the eastern side while Fatumafuti was covered with sand and debris and huge waves washed onto vehicles stalling them.

Bulldozers are at work clearing the highway and Utulei Beach has been littered with plastic bottles, wrappings and rocks.

Residents of east side villages said this was the worse they had seen as far as waves crashing onto the road.

Huge rocks, all sorts of debris and garbage was dumped onto low lying beach side roads from the eastern end of the island to the western most tip of the island.

On Tutuila, several sections of the road are not accessible on the eastern side while Fatumafuti was covered with sand and debris and huge waves washed onto vehicles stalling them.

The Emergency Operations Centre has been activated and Governor Lemanu said everyone’s cooperation was appreciated during this untimely event, and he asked that people in American Samoa remained vigilant and kept their families safe.

Flooding at Fatanafuti on Tetuila Island.

Pago Pago International Airport will remain closed due to damage from heavy waves to the runway, and all government offices are closed.

The Hawaiian Airlines flight scheduled for last night has also been cancelled and will resume as soon as the runway can reopen safely. Hawaiian Airlines is hoping the flight would operate today during the day.

Unexpected sea surges slam into Cook Islands and Tahiti
An unexpected weather event has damaged properties and flooded roads in the Cook Islands while French Polynesia is dealing with the aftermath of huge swells.

Swells of up to 4.5 metres inundating coastal areas, driven by a high pressure system pushing up from New Zealand have been labelled a highly unusual weather event by the Cook Islands Emergency Management Director John Strickland.

Sea swells hit a tourist resort in Rarotonga
Sea swells hit a tourist resort in Rarotonga. Image: Facebook

He said the impacts were the most far reaching he had seen in a decade.

“It was a sudden hit at night, there was damage that took place Tuesday night local time,” Strickland said.

He said there was an “unexpected sea surge” in Rarotonga.

“Rough seas, debris and rocks, you name it, it was shifted onto the road.”

Low lying coastal areas in Puaikura District along with Titikaveka, in Takitumu District, were the most severely impacted areas.

“At the Rarotongan Hotel, guests were shifted from their rooms, because some of the rooms were on the beach,” he said.

National emergency operation teams were activated from three vilages to support the infrastructure team as they were busy.

Strickland said while things have settled down, early on Thursday morning local time he received reports of northern Islands experiencing high seas, resulting in the closure of schools.

Emergency services remain on high alert and fresh warnings have been issued for the Northern parts of the Cook Islands.

A meeting is underway between Red Cross, police and other emergency teams.

Cook Islands’ meteorological service director Arona Ngari said homes were evacuated in Titikaveka and Arorangi districts.

“There seems to be a couple of events that have exceeded expectations and that revolves around a couple of the high tides. So it is a pity, it is awful to see the damage from the high pressure system,” he said.

Houses and roads submerged in French Polynesia
The level of the ocean surrounding French Polynesia has significantly risen and has submerged roads and houses bordering the oceans on the west coast of Tahiti.

Damage to houses in Tahiti
Damage to houses in Tahiti. Image: Facebook

La Premiere television reported that 15 houses on the coast were submerged and the homeowners evacuated.

French Polynesia was battered this week by 8-9 metre swells.

All marine and water related activities are forbidden for most of the territory including going to the beach.

According to local meteorological authorities this is an “exceptional phenomenon” which hasn’t been seen in French Polynesia since 2005.

A local fisherman, Benjamin Tematahotoa, said he is worried his boat will be lost in the flooding.

“Of course it’s worrying, thats why we are staying vigilant and we are staying here,” he said.

“If we really need to bring the boat back then we will tow it home. It’s stressful especially if this is only the start. It’s rising, it’s rising, every five minutes, it’s rising it looks like its going to keep rising”.

La Premiere reported that two surfers were injured while attempting to surf during the high swells.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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