Local woman worries about brother in Samoa

September 30, 2009 7:00:39 PM PDT
The death toll resulting from an earthquake and the tsunami which followed in the far South Pacific rose throughout the day. Dozens of people are still missing in American Samoa, the result of an 8.3 magnitude earthquake and tsunami. FEMA is sending a team from Hawaii to help the survivors. A local woman is keeping a close eye on what's happening in Samoa. She's a native of the region, and her brother is there.

The Houston area doesn't have a huge Samoan population but the community here is tight. Iva Partsch is a part of that group and she's anxiously waiting to hear from her baby brother.

Partsch has barely left her computer since hearing the terrible news.

"I'm just going to pray he's OK and try to keep finding out information," she said.

Right now, it is her lifeline to home.

"Our house on the hill and then you look down and there's the water," said Partsch.

She moved away from American Samoa when she graduated from high school, but her brother Victor still lives there. But now she can't get through to him.

"I get a busy signal. It's like it's not ringing," said Partsch.

It was just before 1pm Houston time, 6:45am Tuesday in American Samoa, when a major earthquake rocked the South Pacific.

"All of the houses are like shaking, you know, it's really stronger than other earthquakes that we had before," said American Samoan resident Misipati.

Soon a tsunami in the form of a series of waves estimated as high as 15 feet struck beachside villages and the U.S. territory's capital city of Pago Pago. Almost immediately islanders rushed to higher ground. Partsch hopes her brother was already there and hadn't left for work, where his office is at sea level.

"You would just get swept onto the water," she said.

Half a world away she feels hopeless. All she can do is email and call and so she did, one more time while we were there.

"It's still busy," said Partsch.

Now all she can do is pray.

"I'm just hoping for the best and hoping he's going to be OK," Partsch said.

The population of American Samoa is very small, only about 65,000 people, so Partsch says it's likely she will know some of the dead or their families.

Here in Houston, her husband is the president of the Polynesian Cultural Association. They have about 150 members.

The PCA will have a booth at the Aloha Fest this Saturday, October 3, from 11am to 7pm at Clear Lake Park. The board has set up an account with Wells Fargo called "South Pacific Islands Tsunami Benefit Fund". Anyone that wants to donate should make their check payable to the above fund.

The group will be at the Aloha Fest to collect checks or you can mail the check to:

Polynesian Cultural Association

P. O. Box 302

Channelview, Texas 77530

713-221-3261

Or you can visit the Polynesian Cultural Association's web site at pcahoustontexas.org.

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