Police, civil defense
lend aid

U.S. Army Reserve troops
usually handle relief efforts,
but most are currently in Iraq

About 400 U.S. Army Reserve soldiers from American Samoa who could have been called on to help with hurricane relief efforts are not in the islands because they were called to active duty in Iraq.

However, American Samoa Lt. Gov. Afitofele Sunia said yesterday that police and civil defense workers should be able to handle immediate needs after Hurricane Olaf blew past American Samoa yesterday.

American Samoa does not have a National Guard. Sunia said the Army Reserve usually takes on those duties. However, "about 90 percent" of the soldiers are now in Iraq.

He added that besides police and civil defense workers, Samoans have a tradition of pulling together and helping each other during hurricanes and other emergencies.

Sunia said the U.S. military has been asked to provide a plane to fly over the Manua Islands, which were in the direct path of Hurricane Olaf yesterday morning, to help with damage assessment and relief efforts.

Sunia, who is in Hawaii awaiting a flight back to Pago Pago, said because telephone service has been cut off to the Manua islands of Ta'u, Ofu and Olosega, it is difficult to know how badly the islands were damaged or what help might be needed.

He said Samoans were thankful that there were no deaths or major damage on the main island of Tutuila, where most people live.

"We're a God-fearing people, and the only reason we can attest to this is our faith in God," he said.

He said it is too early to start organizing hurricane relief drives because it is not yet known what supplies will be needed.

"It's better to wait and donate the right things and make sure they're useful," Sunia said.

Sunia said his father and cousins live in the Manua Islands.

"They were all prepared for the worst," said Soloalii Faalepo Faalepo Jr., director of the Hawaii American Samoan Government Office of the Governor, who also has relatives in the Manua Islands.

Army Reserve spokesman Lt. Col. Howard Sugai said 300 soldiers from American Samoa are assigned to Companies A and B of the 100th Battalion. An additional 50 soldiers are with the 411th Engineer Battalion, and about 50 more are assigned to the 793rd Engineer Utilities Detachment.

Sugai said the Reserve soldiers still in American Samoa will be contacting relatives of the soldiers in Iraq to make sure they are OK and that their needs are taken care of.

"We are very concerned about how our families are doing down there," he said.

Sunia cut short a visit to the mainland to return to American Samoa. He is in Hawaii waiting for the airport to reopen and commercial flights to resume.

Polynesian Airlines, which offers a weekly flight to Samoa, formerly Western Samoa, said it canceled its flights to and from the capital, Apia, last night. But the flights will be rescheduled for tomorrow.

Hawaiian Airlines canceled its flights to and from Pago Pago in American Samoa on Monday. Spokesman Keoni Wagner said the airport in Pago Pago was scheduled to reopen last night. He said Hawaiian Airlines staff were planning to examine the runway this morning and that the airline would make a decision today about rescheduling Monday's flight for tomorrow.

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