Lano, Savai'i, Samao. July 6th, 2013The rain was heavy the previous night, and there was a thunderstorm. I got up for breakfast and met the others, our fale had been hit worse than Janas, the beds were a bit damp. I had had a dry sleep. The rain continued. About midday, a bunch of small buses pulled into the fales. He told us the road was blocked in both directions due to heavy rain causing flooding and blocking the roads. I asked Jana and Lotta if they wanted to investigate, Lotta refused but Jana said yes. We went off into the pouring rain, about 1km down the road. We got to where the river runs under the road, but instead of a road there was a raging torrent. People were standing about on both sides just looking at it. We took some pictures and generally larked about.
|The state of the road|
|Crossing by foot was impossible, even for the locals|
|Sai and the flooding in front of his house. River is to the right of the pic|
The next thing a bus attempted the crossing. Jana was yelling at me to take a picture and I was trying to get the camera onto video mode. What happened next was a disaster. The bus got about 3/4 of the way across, but the current was too strong, and it slid towards the lower edge of the road. At this point people started screaming. There was a drop of about 1m from road to river, and as the bus went in it turned on its roof.
At this point I put the camera down, covered up because of the rain, and started heading towards the seafront where everything was being dragged to. The bus did another 90 degree roll so the roof was now facing me, and the force of the water ripped the roof off, exposing the people inside like terrified sardines in a can. People started jumping out left right and centre, the more able were able to scramble to the banks of the river, the less able were dragged out by the terrific current. I ran to the sea edge and waded in, looking for someone to help. There were a lot of people in the water, tourists and Samoan, many joined in to help. I saw an old samoan woman waving at me from another 20m out, I was already about 60m out.Luckily the water never got beyond chest height. A Samoan already had her by one side, so I got on the other, her arm around my shoulder. The woman was delirious and moaned constantly, and kept looking on the verge of unconsciousness. Her head kept lolling forward into the water, so I was half supporting her head and half carrying her, and trying to get her to put her feet on the floor, which sort of half worked. At some point during this I realised the arm around me had big hole in it. I now know what is meant by the term ragged flesh. It was horrible. Strangely it didnt seem to be bleeding to badly, but maybe I just couldnt see because of the water. We couldnt walk up the current it was too strong, so we had to go out to the side. We eventually got her to the steep rocks, where four strong samoans carried her up, At this point I noticed her other other arm was visibly broken, just below the elbow.I remember one of the Samoans pulling her wrist from her elbow, I guess he was trying to straighten it out, I winced. I scanned the sea again, but getting the old woman out had been so slow that there appeared to be no-one left. I climbed up to survey the damage. I had kept checking the coast for Jana, but she had been nowhere to be seen. The house next door belonging to Sai had been turned into a first aid station. Out the back I found Jana who was tending to a white girl who seemed in a bad way. Turns out she was German, so it was comforting for her to have Jana there She was white as a sheet and shivering. She had blood running from her head. Jana seemed to be doing a good job. I spied my camera behind her. From the time of the bus going in the water until the end of the movie it took was 15 minutes. I cant remember if I stopped it or if it stopped itself. I went on to the house to see what was going on. The old woman seemed to be in the worst condition, she was being cared for by some Samoans. I found out later that one of the woman present was a nurse. Everybody else either seemed to be in shock, have minor wounds and possibly a suspected closed broken bone here and there. I suddenly remembered I had a basic first aid kit back at the fale. I told Jana what I was doing and ran back to get it. The water was almost knee deep on the roads at some point. I had been barefoot for the entire time. I was never very good at walking on the jaggy road, but it didnt seem to matter too much this time. I got back the fales where life had been continuing as normal. I told the group, perhaps not audibly enough, that they should get their shoes on and follow me to help, there had been a terrible accident. I made sure Lotta heard me. She got ready and I found the first aid kit. We jogged back and on the way I told Lotta the situation. She started to cry and said she didnt know if she would able to handle it. I took her by the hand and told her she was going to be fine. We arrived at the house, having to wade through thigh deep water to get to it. I spread the first aid contents on a table and not sure what to do first, I offered ibuprofen to those obviously in pain. I said to Lotta maybe she should take the disinfectant and start administering it to cuts. She did this like a star, administered small bandages and generally had a great bedside manner. Jana was also now inside with the injured german girl Tina and was busy bandaging up her head and talking softly to her. I surveyed the scene and everything seemed to be generally under control. The scene was actually surprisingly calm. I took this to mean that everything WAS under control and that no-one was obviously missing or dead. I helped get the old lady on to her back with a bunch of others. She was much quieter now, I wasnt sure how to interpret that, but she generally seemed calmer. It was still raining heavily outside. We heard the ambulance crews were on route, and after maybe 45 minutes, Lotta and I decided to return to the beach fales and leave Jana with Tina. We expected to be able to return to some sort of calm and take stock, but it wasn't to be. It was all kicking off at the fales too.
Part of the flow of the flood was coming directly past the main building, eating the sand away from underneath it. The corner of the building looked in serious danger of collapse.
|Where the beach used to be|
|The front courtyard|
|Makeshift barrier was set up to stop people getting too close|
The following day I found out that two little girls died in the accident. 12 and 5, related and from the same village. Sai was one of the unfortunate people to find the bodies. Tina eventually made it safely back to Germany after being taken care of by the German consul in Apia for just over a week. The driver was badly injured and the police are waiting for a new crimes act with harsher punishments before starting the legal process. He will most probably be charged with either manslaughter or murder and face life in jail.