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Hundreds stranded more than 6 months after American Samoa sealed its borders

Updated: Oct. 9, 2020 at 4:33 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - American Samoa has not seen a single case of COVID-19.

That’s because the government sealed off its borders early on in the pandemic, worrying the virus would overwhelm its only hospital.

All non-essential commercial flights in and out of the US territory were suspended in late March.

That’s left those who were in American Samoa visiting family stranded there, unavailable to leave.

Epifania Rapozo, a Washington State resident, flew to American Samoa in February with her two children to visit family. They’ve been trying to find a way out for nearly seven months.

She said being stuck has been a nightmare and she’s appealing to political leaders for help.

“We are here. We are your people. We are crying out for help. I don’t know more what we can say or do,” she said.

“We are hurting, emotionally, financially, physically. Just send our people home."

Nonprofit agencies in Honolulu are also asking Hawaii leaders for help, including to allow those stranded outside of American Samoa to go home.

There are an estimated 500 people with ties to American Samoa who are stranded across the country, with about 200 of them in Hawaii.

“We have more than 100 families that are stuck here in Hawaii and we’ve been trying to provide them assistance, food, as well as support,” said Elisapeta Alaimaleata, executive director and founder of Lefetuau Samoan Language Center in Honolulu.

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