Stranded Samoa
passengers head home

Mitch Hart said he is anxious to return home to Pago Pago after being stranded in Hawaii for the past three days because Cyclone Heta closed the airport in American Samoa.

"It's frustrating," said Hart, who lives on a 37-foot sailboat in the Pago Pago harbor. "I'm concerned about our floating house."

Passengers were able to depart Honolulu today on two separate special flights. An Aloha Airlines flight from Honolulu to Pago Pago was to take off at 8 a.m. and a Hawaiian Airlines flight was to leave at 5:05 p.m.

Another Aloha Airlines flight is scheduled to depart Pago Pago at 5 a.m. tomorrow and arrive in Honolulu at 11:40 a.m., while a Hawaiian Airlines flight is scheduled to depart the capital at 11:05 p.m. today and arrive in Honolulu at 5:25 a.m. tomorrow.

Airport officials were informed that Pago Pago was to reopen their airport last night.

"We got feedback from our people in Pago Pago that the runway appeared to be in satisfactory condition," said Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Keoni Wagner.

More than 900 Hawaiian Airlines passengers traveling to and from Pago Pago had their flights canceled due to bad weather.

It is unknown how many Aloha Airlines passengers were affected.

Don Walker, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said the heavy rain and gusty winds caused damage to the airport's buildings and its navigational equipment.

"The roof was damaged significantly, but it was not blown off," Walker said.

Meanwhile, a team of specialists from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency was expected to head to Pago Pago to conduct a preliminary damage assessment, according to spokeswoman Jean Baker. The team also includes members from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Members of the nonprofit organization Samoan Service Providers Association are meeting with community members in anticipation of a damage assessment to be made by the governor, according to executive director Leusoga Bill Emmsley.


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