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Pacific Tsunami (Samoa & Tonga)

On Wednesday 30 September, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck offshore, between the islands of Samoa and American Samoa.

The earthquake triggered a tsunami of up to 1.7 metres in height, which caused severe damage in island areas that are only a few feet above sea level.

The strong response by local Red Cross was partly a result of the disaster preparedness work that Australian Red Cross, with the support of AusAID, had conducted in the area over the past two to three years.

The focus was to work with Pacific societies to reduce the impact of natural disasters. Part of this was about prepositioning the relief supplies around the Pacific which were used during this response.

Red Cross response


Bearing the brunt of the tsunami was a narrow coastal strip of 40km, with 40 villages on the south eastern end of Upolu. The most easterly 15km part of this strip was destroyed, however road access remained quite good and medical services were still available. While the humanitarian response continued in Samoa, early-recovery planning was underway.

Family food security was considered very fragile, as the tsunami claimed people's sources of income as well as their homes. Pigs and poultry, fishing gear and canoes needed replacing, to restore livelihoods so people were able to feed their families.

Australian Red Cross people

Three Australian Red Cross aid workers -- specialists in water and sanitation, psychosocial support and restoring family links -- arrived in Samoa soon after the disaster to support local communities, and have since completed their missions.


More than half the 255 houses on Ha'apai island were destroyed or damaged, while public buildings, and water and sanitation systems were seriously damaged.

The Government of Tonga estimated the total cost of damage was approximately US9.5 million.


Red Cross maintains a database of aid workers who are able to be sent to disaster zones. All of these aid workers have undertaken a Red Cross induction program. If you are interested in working for Red Cross in the future, you need to complete this program.

for more information see our aid worker page [***link***]

The Pacific Tsunami (Samoa and Tonga) 2009 appeal is now closed.

Australian Red Cross would like to thank people who have contributed to the Appeal. Organisers of fundraising events have until 10 December to send in the money collected to Red Cross, unless other arrangements have been made with Red Cross. For information on how to send Red Cross proceeds of fundraising events please call 1800 811 700 or email

Donations made to the Pacific Tsunami (Samoa and Tonga) 2009 appeal will be used to:

  • Support relief, rehabilitation and recovery activities for communities affected by the disaster in Samoa,Tonga and affected Islands.
  • Send specialist aid workers to assist in the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement response.
  • Support Australian Red Cross programs of assistance in the affected areas.

Note: Australian Red Cross will not deduct more than 10% of any donation for an international appeal to cover appeal costs. Should the funds raised exceed the amount required to meet the immediate and longer term needs of the people in the affected areas, Australian Red Cross will direct the excess funds to other emergency preparedness and response initiatives in the Asia Pacific region. Any interest earned on donations will be invested back into the appeal.

Clean water a priority for communities as they rebuild [***link***]

Australian aid worker Kathryn Clarkson says drinking water remains a major focus for relief efforts.

Humanitarian diary - Samoa [***link***]

Visiting villages along the strip of Samoan coast badly affected by the tsunami, Jacqui Pringle finds that people are picking up the pieces and starting to ask 'what next?'