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`My Senses Were Overwhelmed', Says Labour MP

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Chris Carter
Chris Carter

By Peter Wilson of NZPA

Wellington, Oct 1 NZPA - Samoans are starting to feel the real impact of the death and destruction caused by yesterday's tsunami, Labour MP Chris Carter says.

"People have an almost zombie-like appearance," he told NZPA after visiting the devastated coastal areas today.

"While we were in one village they found a body. The church minister I was with told me everyone was coping quite well yesterday in the immediate aftermath but today, finding the remaining bodies, the shock of what happened has really settled in."

Mr Carter, Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, went to Samoa as soon as he could after the tsunami smashed into the southern coast. With him is another Labour MP, Luamanuvao Winnie Laban.

"My senses were overwhelmed," he said.

"You can see exactly how far the wave went, the church minister told me it was eight metres high. Every wooden building has been destroyed.

"A few of the concrete block buildings have survived but their interiors have been devastated by the flood water."

Mr Carter said desperate attempts were being made to get power back on, because most of the fresh water came from bores that needed electric pumps.

"They can't pump anything. In this heat, and with sewerage everywhere because septic tanks have been destroyed, clean fresh water if critical."

Mr Carter said it was an emotional experience, especially for Mrs Laban, when they visited the ruined villages.

"Winnie keeps meeting relatives and friends, people she knows well, everywhere we go, every village we've visited," he said.

"Early this morning we attended the first funeral of a tsunami victim, Tui Annandale, a close relative of Winnie's.

"One woman burst into tears when she put her arms around me and said `this is the first of so many funerals I will go to in the next few days'."

Mr Carter said the New Zealand High Commission was coping well today but had been overwhelmed yesterday when it started trying to track down and account for the hundreds of New Zealanders in Samoa.

"That's a herculean task because so many are here but now they have volunteers from the expatriate community working the phones, just ringing around," he said.

"Winnie and I volunteered to help but more staff arrived on the Hercules (military transport aircraft) today and the deputy high commissioner thought he was going to be okay for staff."

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