Saturday, August 14, 2010

"It really killed me seeing him go."

There were those who had to rush not away from the ocean – but towards it – as they moved to ensure the wheels for a disaster response were in motion. Palantina Toelupe is the CEO for Health in Samoa. She lives in the coastal village Vailoa, on the outskirts of Apia with her two sons. The younger son Vaitoa is Filomena Nelson’s right hand at the DMO office. As the earthquake built in intensity and then shuddered to a still, Vaitoa yelled for his mum and brother to run. “Mum, there’s going to be a tsunami. You’ve got about five minutes, you’ve got to run, you’ve got to go NOW!” Palantina ran but was bewildered to see Vaitoa accelerating in his car for the opposite direction. “Where are YOU going?” His reply clamped her with a cold fist of fear. “I have to go to Mulinu’u, to the Met office! I have to report, to get the computers up.” She clearly remembers that awful moment. “It was one of the most horrible decisions any mother could make, knowing that you were supposed to run for your life and yet your son is going towards this supposed problem…It really killed me seeing him go. I ran and took his older brother with me and we were the first ones to get up to Faleata, that’s how quickly we evacuated…but when we got up there, I stopped and said to myself, what am I running for? What about my job? I’ve forgotten everything! And so we turned around and came back home and when I got back, people were just starting to run – that’s how early we ran. We got to the house, quickly changed and we went straight to the hospital. I got there and people were asking, what’s going to happen next?And I said, prepare – get ready for the emergency.”

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