Hawaii Samoans reach out to families back home, use social networking sites to see devastation

Jennifer Manini
Jennifer Manini
Nive Leituala
Nive Leituala

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) -   Some Samoan families here in Hawaii are still trying to find out if their loved ones are okay.  Tuesday's earthquake and the tsunamis that followed killed at least 119 people.

The tsunami that hit the remote pacific islands annihilated villages.  Homes were ripped apart, cars flung aside. Belongings were washed away.  The waves caused by the earthquake reached up to 20 feet high, and created massive flooding.

For many Samoans who live here, it has been tough getting in touch with loved ones back at home. Phone service is still spotty in some places, and some are still waiting to hear back from relatives.

Hawaii has a sizeable Samoan community here.  And a day after the deadly earthquake and tsunami, they're still trying to find out what's going on.

Imagine waking up to a call from your sister 2,600 miles away.

"My sister was saying, 'Can you hear it?  Can you hear it?  It's the earthquake,'" said Jennifer Manini, a Samoan who lives on Oahu.

An 8.0 quake rocked Samoa Tuesday morning.

"Half an hour later, I heard about the tsunami, and I've been trying to call back home to see how they were and I couldn't get through," said Manini.

So when that happened, they went online to sites like Facebook, where friends and family shared pictures of the devastation.

Manini scrolled through images of her homeland destroyed by the earthquake-generated tsunamis.

"I couldn't believe anything could happen to my country," said Manini.  "Where I'm from, anything this devastating would actually tear down villages."

She cried at work, and she cried again when she met her friend Nive Leituala, who is also Samoan.

"I had to go in and out of the office to cry," said Leituala.  "Because I couldn't get a hold of anyone, my parents, my aunties, my uncles, my cousins."

This is the second time in a week a natural disaster crippled Leituala's family.  Her mom has family in the Philippines, and they were in the path of Saturday's typhoon.

"And she's crying to me and she's saying, me and my sisters are worried, they lost everything," said Leituala.

She's been fielding calls from relatives from Samoa and the Philippines.  Wednesday afternoon, she talked to her aunt.

"I could barely understand what she's saying," said Leituala. "I said, 'They're fine; they're fine.'   And she broke down and started crying and I started crying."

They're relying on family ...

"The only thing I could do was just pray," said Manini.

... and God to get them through.

But they also need your help.

"Donations, canned food, bags of rice, bottled water, clothes, monetary donations," said Manini.  "I know it's going to take a lot for Samoa to get back on its feet."

But the Samoan community has faith in themselves, and a higher power.

"With time and God on our side, yes, we will," said Manini. "We will overcome."

Leituala's family survived the tsunami, but Manini's cousins died.

To find out how you can help the folks in Samoa, go here or click the link to the American Red Cross on this page.