Communications as Survival

The September 29 tsunami took between 5-8 minutes to reach the coast of Samoa, and only a few minutes more to strike Tonga and American Samoa. Thursday’s false alarm provides an object lesson on the importance of timely, accurate and systematic information sharing, both in acquisition and dissemination of geohazard data.

Communications is, after all what makes us human. And what keeps us safe and alive.

‘Storian hemi laef blong yumi’ – Telecom Vanuatu’s new slogan could not be more true.

In times of crisis, communication and coordination enable us to survive and to recover quickly.

When an earthquake occured between Samoa and Tonga early in the morning of September 29th, it created a tsunami that struck the inhabitants on the eastern and southeastern parts of the island within minutes. Sirens sounded and church bells rang all over side of the island, sending people fleeing to higher ground.

The latest reports from Samoa indicate that in addition to at least 149 dead, 640 families comprising roughly 3200 people have lost their homes and possessions. Most have yet to to return to their villages, and are without proper access to power, water and other basic amenities.

Food, water, clothing and shelter are all critical elements of the relief effort.

Equally important is the ability to communicate.

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