Last Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the tsunami that devastated American Samoa.
The National Park of American Samoa and the local government recognized this as a day of remembrance for the survivors and those who lost their lives. Public church services were held in villages throughout the islands.
Life changed for the national park and residents after a magnitude 8.1 earthquake triggered a tsunami on the morning of September 29, 2009. After a series of waves hit the islands, the park’s visitor center, offices, vehicles, dive locker, and maintenance garage were destroyed; one-third of the park staff lost their homes; villages were destroyed; and 34 people died. Parklands and coral reefs were minimally affected.
While significant progress has been made toward restoring the park to normal operations, challenges persist, including shipping issues, scarce local resources, and limited available land for a new facility. Today, park headquarters and a small visitor center are temporarily setup in a former car dealership in Tafuna, an hour’s drive from the park. Field and research staff utilize shipping containers for storage and operations.
Continued recovery efforts will include the relocation of park staff to a more permanent facility sometime after this coming January.