Tsunami: 'Her whole village was underwater'

Tsunami: 'Her whole village was underwater' »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. -- A team made of workers from three Lane County electric utilities are heading to American Samoa to help tsunami survivors. EPUD, Lane Electric and EWEB are all footing the bill.

An underwater earthquake ravaged American Samoa, as well as the nation of Samoa on Sept. 29. More than 30 people were killed in American Samoa and nearly 200 across the rest of the region.  
           
Siaosi Panapa moved to Eugene from American Samoa two years ago. He lost a member of his family in the tsunami.
 
“My wife’s grandmother … she was at work. There were two kids trying to hold onto her, but the wave torn them apart. The kids lived, she didn’t,” Panapa said.
           
Panapa was especially worried about his mother. “Her whole village was underwater,” he said. He did not know her fate until three days after the wave. “She said she was ok, but I want to go there and find out for myself,” Panapa said.
           
He went to Lane Electric his place of work saying he needed to go home and check on his family.
           
“This is our way of helping him get there and do some good,” said Vester Sanders from Lane Electric.
 
Lane Electric is just one of the utilities paying for the 4-man team to go and help rebuild the area.
 
“Every one of them is a top notch worker, they will have an excellent crew,” Sanders said.
   
Panapa has had limited communication with his family and friends back home, he says the tsunami struck early in the morning, while children were waiting at bus stops and people were heading to work, “Those are the kids and people who were swept away,” Panapa said.
           
While in American Samoa they will use their skills to help rebuild electricity and then help out any way they can.
           
“From the bottom of my heart I really appreciate what the utility companies in Oregon are doing to help our families back home,” Panapa said.
           
The rescue workers will leave for American Samoa on Oct. 8 and stay for at least a few weeks.