Thursday, December 30, 2004

Kauai residents
fondly recall
‘Taxi Dave’

LIHUE » Two longtime friends of tsunami victim David "Taxi Dave" Samman remembered him fondly yesterday.


David Samman: He was building a waterfront retirement home in Thailand

Samman, 53, a 20-year Princeville resident, was killed Sunday in Thailand where he was building his retirement home. His daughter, May, 5, was with him but uninjured. His wife, Aoy, was in San Diego at the time of the disaster and was en route to Thailand yesterday.

Samman was well known on Kauai as both a surfer and businessman. He owned three business: North Shore Taxi, North Shore Limo and Best Kauai Tours.

He remarried about five years ago following a divorce, retired and went to Thailand to build a home.

Gary Komers, a North Shore Kauai house painter and friend of Samman for 30 years, spent a month with Samman in Thailand this fall. He said the two-story luxury home Samman was building was steps from the water.

"Are you sure it's safe building this close?" Komers said he asked.

"Sure. This area never has tidal waves," he quoted Samman as saying.

"He was really a generous person," Komers said. "He always made sure everyone was taken care of."

Surfing and the National Football League were Samman's two passions, Komers said.

Bob Kaden, a battalion chief on the Kauai Fire Department, and his family visited Samman in Thailand last summer.

"He was a decent soul," Kaden said. "Always kind, always generous.

"He loved life. He loved good wine. He loved good food. He was a leader."

There are several versions of how Samman was killed.

Kaden said the story he was told was that the first tidal wave swept up to Samman's current home almost a mile from the beach. Samman left his daughter and housekeeper to see what damage had been done to his construction site and was caught by a following wave.

"He probably didn't have much of a chance," Komers said.

His death stunned the North Shore community.

"I went into the grocery store this morning, and people were crying about him," said Kiki Pruett, a longtime friend. "He was an awesome guy. I had Thanksgiving at his house for at least 10 years."

"He had his first child in his late 40s. He was very happy," Pruett said.


East-West student's mom, 2 sisters dead

An East-West Center student lost her mother and two sisters in Aceh, Indonesia, in the deadly tsunami that ravished the region Sunday.

Nurhayati Idris, 41, returned to Indonesia on Tuesday through the help of the Ford Foundation, which had funded her fellowship, according to the East-West Center in Manoa.

Idris' husband and children, who live in Jakarta, are safe, and she has one sister who survived the tsunami.

Idris is an English teacher and is studying curriculum studies at the University of Hawaii-Manoa through the East-West Center's Ford Foundation International Fellowships program.

State will test sirens at 11:45 a.m. Monday

State Civil Defense will administer the monthly siren and Emergency Alert System test on Monday at 11:45 a.m.

The siren test is a 45-second alert signal on all sirens. The steady siren is used to alert the public to any emergency that could pose a threat to residents. Residents are to turn on any radio or TV for information when the sirens are activated.

Red Cross seeks monetary donations

The Hawaii chapter of the American Red Cross is seeking donations for relief efforts in southern Asia.

Checks can be sent to the chapter, at 4155 Diamond Head Road, or by calling 800-HELP-NOW. To make the contribution specifically for the relief effort, write "South Asia Earthquake┌Tsunami" in the check's memo line.

For more information, go to www.redcross.org .

School fund-raiser to aid child victims

The Cole Academy has launched a fund-raiser for children devastated by Asia's tsunamis and is calling on schools and families to help gather $20,000.

By yesterday afternoon more than half of that had already been donated.

Also, Murphy's Bar & Grill has promised to donate 50 percent of today's sales to support the effort. Funds raised by tomorrow -- two days after the fund-raiser's launch -- will be sent to UNICEF, on behalf of the South Asia Keiki Aloha Fund.

Money received after tomorrow will still be accepted and forwarded to the fund.

Checks should be made out to the "U.S. Fund for UNICEF" and mailed to or dropped off at the Cole Academy, 36 Merchant St. "South Asia Keiki Aloha" should be written in the check's memo line. For more information, call the academy at 531-4500.

At top, pyres of victims killed by seismic waves burned yesterday on the beach at Alappad, in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

Chaos descends
on disaster zone

Relief efforts lack clear
coordination as aftershocks
keep survivors edgy

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia » As the world scrambled to the rescue, survivors fought over packs of noodles in quake-stricken Indonesian streets yesterday while relief supplies piled up at the airport for lack of cars, gas or passable roads to move them. The official death toll across 11 countries soared past 80,000, and the Red Cross predicted it could exceed 100,000.

Fears of more damage surged early today when authorities in southern India warned residents in coastal areas to evacuate low-lying areas, saying there could be fresh tsunamis.

"We have issued an alert. There could be a wave attack in the next one hour," said Veera Shanmuga Mani, the top administrator in Nagappattinam, a coastal town in southern Tamil Nadu state, where most of the deaths from the weekend tsunamis occurred.

It was unclear what sparked the warning, but two 5.2-magnitude aftershocks hit islands off India's eastern coast this morning, the Indian Meteorological Department said.

Paramedics in southern India began vaccinating thousands of survivors against cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A and dysentery, and authorities sprayed bleaching powder on beaches where bodies have been recovered. In Sri Lanka, reports of waterborne disease such as diarrhea caused fears of an epidemic.

World leaders, including President Bush, promised long-range help to the quake-ravaged countries yesterday as impatience with the pace of relief efforts grew.

As U.S. planes and ships moved into place to help from Thailand, Bush made his first public comments since tsunamis inundated the region Sunday, reflecting pressure on the vacationing president to appear more engaged in what aid groups are calling one of the worst natural disasters in history.

"These past few days have brought loss and grief to the world that is beyond our comprehension," Bush said at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, adding that Washington was prepared to contribute much more than the $35 million it had initially pledged.

"We are committed to helping the affected countries in the difficult weeks and months that lie ahead," Bush said, adding that the United States would work closely with Japan, India and Australia to coordinate relief efforts.

On hundreds of Web sites, the messages were brief but poignant: "Missing: Christina Blomee in Khao Lak," or simply, "Where are you?" All conveyed the aching desperation of people the world over whose friends and family went off in search of holiday-season sun and sand and have not been heard from for four days.

But even as hope for the missing dwindled, survivors continued to turn up. In Sri Lanka, where more than 22,000 died, a lone fisherman named Sini Mohammed Sarfudeen was rescued by an air force helicopter crew yesterday after clinging to his wave-tossed boat for three days.

India's death toll rose to nearly 7,000 while Indonesia's stood at 45,268, but authorities said this did not include a full count from Sumatra's west coast, where more than 10,000 deaths were suspected in one town alone.

UNICEF said today that the death toll in Indonesia could rise to as high as 80,000 with nearly a million children in need of assistance. The international children's agency estimated that 60 percent of Banda Aceh, the main town of Sumatra's Aceh province, was destroyed.

"It's going to be 75,000 to 80,000, no question," said John Budd, a UNICEF spokesman in Jakarta who got the information from government sources in Aceh.

In Sumatra, the Florida-size Indonesian island close to the epicenter of the quake, the view from the air was of whole villages ripped apart, covered in mud and sea water. On the streets of Banda Aceh, the military managed to drop supplies from vehicles, and fights broke out over packs of instant noodles.

Thailand said it had 1,975 dead, and a total of more than 300 were killed in Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Somalia, Tanzania and Kenya.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said today that he feared his nation's death toll will soar to nearly 7,000 dead.

With tens of thousands of people still missing across the entire region, Peter Ress, Red Cross operations support chief, said the death toll could top 100,000. More than 500,000 were reported injured.

"We have little hope, except for individual miracles," Jean-Marc Espalioux, chairman of the Accor hotel group, said of the search for thousands of tourists and locals missing from beach resorts of southern Thailand -- including 2,000 Scandinavians.

The State Department said 12 Americans died in the disaster -- seven in Sri Lanka and five in Thailand. About 2,000 to 3,000 Americans are unaccounted for.

The New York Times contributed to this report.

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