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Samoa Tsunami Appeal 2009

Aerial photo of flooded housesOn 29 September 2009, a tsunami triggered by an 8.3 magnitude earthquake swept across the islands of Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga.

It claimed at least 143 lives in Samoa, 31 in American Samoa and nine in Tonga. The wave also caused huge devastation, destroying people’s homes, vehicles and livelihoods. 

The disaster affected around 30,000 people and many were in shock as there had not been anything like this in living memory.

In Samoa, the tsunami hit the poorest region of the country. It badly affected the main industries, including agriculture, fisheries and tourism.

People have been living in makeshift shelters and water supplies were cut off in some of the affected areas.

The scale of the tsunami was such that on Upolu island, Samoa, whole villages were destroyed, leaving 2,000 people homeless. In the immediate aftermath in American Samoa, the hospital was at capacity and power to the eastern district went out.

Thanks to generous donations from the public, we no longer need donations for this appeal.

How we helped

Man walks through debrisThe British Red Cross launched the Samoa Tsunami Appeal in support of the small, isolated and vulnerable communities that urgently needed help.

Red Cross staff and volunteers were on the ground even before the tsunami struck, getting people away from some coastal areas, and more than 200 volunteers distributed pre-positioned aid and supported people in the aftermath of this tragedy.


When the earthquake which triggered the tsunami struck, church bells alerted Red Cross volunteers to begin evacuating people from coastal areas as the tsunami approached.

The Red Cross set up five camps for survivors and volunteers are distributing food, water, blankets, tarpaulins, clothing, and lanterns. They visited schools to promote good hygiene so young people stayed healthy.

In some villages, volunteers are working alongside community members, police and other government workers to clear debris. They also helped transport bodies to the local hospital.

American Samoa

Red Cross volunteers supplied food, water and much needed supplies to survivors and to emergency workers clearing debris.

President Obama declared the region a major disaster zone and the American Red Cross sent an emergency team to support the relief response.


The Tonga Red Cross deployed volunteers and staff to provide emergency assistance and conduct further assessments.

International support

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies deployed an eight-person team. The team had expertise in relief, logistics, health, water and sanitation, shelter, restoring family links and psycho-social care.

It worked with local Red Cross staff and volunteers as well as with the communities affected by the disaster, to assess the immediate needs and looked at early recovery plans to help people get back on their feet.

The Federation relief and recovery operation will help 15,000 people over six months. The British Red Cross emergency appeal will also support recovery activities. A delegate, specialising in securing the livelihoods of families affected by disasters, was also being deployed.

Emergency appeal

The Samoa Tsunami Appeal provided immediate relief for tsunami survivors in the Pacific islands, including the Samoan islands and Tonga and helped them to recover.

Last updated 30 November 2009


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