Samoa Tsunami Strikes Days After Disaster Simulation

When the word came that a tsunami had hit Samoa, it brought up a haunting vision for Susan Silveus, CRS’ Cambodia-based Assistant to the Asia Regional Director. She had been in Samoa only a few days before attending a regional Caritas conference.

The main exercise of the conference: an emergency simulation of a tsunami hitting Samoa to test and plan for emergency responses and teach communities how to “cope” with any remaining available means at their disposal while preparing for more substantial responses.

The exercise was led by Puletini Tuala–known as Tini–director of Caritas Samoa. It’s a program that began only last year. CRS has committed $50,000 to Caritas Samoa in the wake of the tsuamani triggered by a powerful offshore earthquake.

“It was a bit troubling to us all when the reality was so close to the simulation,” Silveus says, imagining her colleagues there now putting into action the lessons they learned.

“One big lesson from the simulation was that it’s very important to talk to the community directly about their needs,” she said. “Tini’s first step in the simulation was doing this, choosing to be with the people to see for himself, sending others to meetings about coordinating the response. So I wasn’t surprised to hear he was immediately out in the affected areas, using the tools he’d learned to best understand and identify the most urgent needs.”

Silveus says she has one distinct image from the simulation, a Caritas Samoa staff person, a woman, running about 50 yards across a lawn in the hot sun, in her beautiful Samoan long skirt, just to get some information from the pretend community to the pretend donors.

“If she worked that hard in a simulation, I can only imagine how hard she’s working now in the real situation,” Silveus says.

– Michael Hill, CRS communications officer for Africa

To help families in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

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One Response to “Samoa Tsunami Strikes Days After Disaster Simulation”

  1. Tim wsalsh Says:

    Great description of an event with such foresight and so visibly imagineable

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