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Friday, October 02, 2009

Other Samoa tsunami surviving stories

Here's another heart warming story of surviving the Samoa tsunami reported in Telegraph:

A young British woman has described the terrifying moment waves smashed through her windscreen and water filled her car after she attempted to outrun the tsunami on Samoa.

Rachel Pooley, 27, was staying in the Taufau Resort in the village of Lalomanu on the southeastern coast, with her Samoan boyfriend when the earthquake struck just after dawn.

She said the tremor woke them but they thought the danger was over until locals warned them they needed to run for their lives.

"It was powerful but once it stopped everyone thought it was over," she said.

"My boyfriend went to brush his teeth. But then the kids in the bungalow next door to us were running up the beach screaming saying 'The water has gone, we have to go'."

Miss Pooley, from Hertford, ran to the shower block to alert her boyfriend, Tolu Taranaki, to the danger.

She said: "We jumped in the car thinking it was the quickest way out, but we got about five metres down the road before the first wave hit. I didn't even see it coming.

"The wave hit our car and the windscreen smashed. I was screaming 'We have got to get out' and water was coming in.

"I think we climbed into the back of the car and we were trying to smash the window. We were in the wave for about two to three minutes."

Mr Taranaki managed to smash a window and pull himself out of the car, but another surge struck before he could free his girlfriend.

"He had hold of my hand and as he got through the second wave must have hit and the car went down. I lost his hand and the car filled with water."

Miss Pooley, moved to Samoa to live with Mr Taranaki, 29, just six weeks before the tsunami hit, described her terror at being trapped alone in the sinking car.

"I was searching for air but there was none. I was gulping and gulping black water. I was smashing on the roof of the car, smashing everywhere, my face was all cut and smashed up.

"Then the car came up a tiny bit and I took half a breath. I was panicking, I was trying to get out, but then I gave up. I said to myself 'Rach, calm down. If this is it, you can't do anything'.

"I relaxed in the water and I said a prayer. I'm not religious, but I said 'Please let Tolu be alive. Please let me out of this car. We can't die like this'.

"Then two seconds later the back of the car came out of the wave. I saw daylight and scrambled through the window."

Miss Pooley, who suffered cuts to her face, arms and feet that would become infected from the putrid water, found Mr Taranaki clinging to a tree with deep gashes to his back and torso. Despite their injuries, the pair were able to get away from the coast to higher ground.

But the following moments were pure chaos, she said.

"We looked back and there was just nothing left. We saw children with nails stuck in their heads. Some kids were screaming for their dad 'Run dad, run', then this guy covered in blood and completely naked ran up the hill."

While most people were fleeing to higher ground, some locals were diving back into the churning water desperately searching for survivors.

"I heard local boys down in the sea, they were screaming for boats. Some of them were diving back in to get people. One boy rescued about five people on his own. I saw another man running uphill with a woman on his back."

Miss Pooley credits her survival to their split-second decision to jump into the car.

"We were lucky because we were in the car for so long when the waves were smashing us around.

The roofs of the bungalows are made of iron and when they collapsed all the iron was coming towards us. However terrible it was in the car, it saved our lives."

And also the story of this lucky British couple:

Anna and Christopher Griffiths, from Pembrokeshire, had planned a two-week holiday to Samoa as part of their joint 30th birthday celebrations.

Mr Griffiths, 30, said: "There were two huge waves coming right us. Two lines of white water absolutely powering at us. I could hear it after it crossed the reef. It was coming at such a speed." The couple, dressed only in their underwear, "just ran for our lives".

With the first surge of the wave at their feet, the couple sprinted for a sheer cliff that stood metres behind the bungalows.

"Chris got a little bit higher up than me and he was able to hold on to a tree and grab me but there was people behind who were not so lucky.

"We went higher and higher in case another one was coming. You could see it through the trees and you could hear it, there was swell still hitting and you could see it still swirling around."

Mrs Griffiths said she and her husband were among the last to make it out alive.

"I didn't look back any further because I didn't want to see what was down there. There were people down there in the water.

"It's unbelievable because there was so many people who I thought were running at the same speed as us, but we haven't seen them since.

"Someone must have been looking after me. St Christopher, perhaps."

It is wonderful to read lucky surviving stories. Of course there are many more heart-breaking tragic stories also. Let us pray for all the unlucky ones and thank the Lord for lucky ones. It is gratifying to see that Miss Pooley, not being religious, still managed to remember saying a prayer at the crisis moment. Praise be to God!

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