Wednesday, November 7, 2007



The Samoan government conducted its first nationwide tsunami drill. The drill had been repeatedly announced for several days on newspaper, radio, and television. The Peace Corps also was expected to participate.

At about noon, we received a text message from the tsunami alert center. About ten minutes later, we received another text of a warning at which time people are to evacuate to a higher consolidation point. About eight minutes later, an ambulance with siren blaring announced the warning as it sped down the road. I started to walk up the road to the high school (our consolidation point) shouting “Tsunami” to the villagers. It was a lonely walk as the villagers greeted me from their houses. About another fifteen minutes the church bell sounded another warning alert. Still I walked alone.

At the high school, I sat under a tree while students continued their classes. One of the host family boys who was riding his bike home asked me why I was sitting alone under a tree. I told him about the tsunami drill. A short while later his father, the mayor and my host father, arrived with his wife. Another neighbor joined making it a foursome. About an hour after the warning, the all clear was texted. We returned home.

To put the whole exercise into perspective, one has to realize the good intentions of the international world community to fund such a warning system, flawed though it may be, and that a significant tsunami has never hit Samoa and if it did, the short time people would have between warning and wave, the acceptance by the villagers of “God’s Will” and protection, and the fact you don’t conduct a drill in the heat of the day.

I think my status as respected Peace Corps Volunteer dropped to that of “Village Idiot”. At least we four returned to the village. I felt a little better because one person is an idiot, two are stupid, but with four, maybe there is a germ of doubt.

Now if there was an actual tsunami warning, I would probably do what the rest of the village would do. I would run down to the sea with my camera to see what a tsunami looks like.

No comments: