A lot can change in a few days. Which is precisely what has happened on the big island of Savai’i today – and to an extent the whole of Samoa.
From the highest of highs with the joyous celebrations of the Miss Samoa being held there for the first time last week to the extreme low of losing three precious lives in extremely tragic circumstances, it’s just so hard to fathom.
Come to think of it, it’s been a year of extremes for Savai’i, reminding us of the saying that when it rains it really does pour.
It wasn’t that long ago that the island made the headlines for another tragic incident where two babies died within minutes of each other after they were administered the M.M.R. vaccination.
The deaths are now the subject of a Court hearing and a Cabinet-ordered Commission of Inquiry underway at the T.A.T.T.E. Building where we hope much-needed lessons are learnt to avoid a repeat.
Then just as the nation was coming down from the euphoria of the weekend where all eyes were on Savai’i, the news of the tragedy at Tafua arrived yesterday.
It pained deeply. That’s undeniable.
It happened on Monday afternoon when three men were killed as a result of a landslide. It could have easily been five had the other two men not managed to survive.
Yesterday we were told that the men worked for a brick-making company at Satupa’itea.
Tafua Villager Eddie Lemaota told your newspaper that the men were allegedly seen using shovels and a garden pick to extract dirt for their load and climbed to the top of the mountain using the garden pick.
Another villager, Lemaota of Tafua, said: “There was no machinery, just tools used by the men.” It happened so quickly.
On the front page of the newspaper you are reading, a family member of one of the victims talks about the tragedy.
And who wouldn’t be affected? Who wouldn’t be sad? We can all identify with the tragedy and the sadness of losing a loved one, under such tragic circumstances. Here in Samoa, it’s even harder.
Now we see tragedies every day in this world. We watch the news where in many countries around the world, multiple people are killed as a result of one thing or another. These are people in countries where the population is in the millions.
Here in Samoa, there are less than 200,000 people. Which means three lives taken in an instant is way too many. That’s why there is a general sense of sadness not just in Savai’i but in Samoa today about what happened in Tafua on Monday.
We are a small country and in many respects, we are a family. When one part of the family suffers, we all feel the pain. Which is how it has been since the news arrived yesterday. It’s hard to ignore that perennial question though, what is going on? What are these tragedies trying to tell us?
Today, Deputy Police Commissioner Papali’i Monalisa Keti tells us that the deaths are the subject of an investigation. In the meantime, they have put a stop to any soil mining as they attempt to get to the bottom of what happened.
We believe this is very, very important. While it is too early to draw conclusions, there are obvious questions and issues that immediately come to mind.
One of them is the issue of occupational health and safety. There are also questions about soil mining, which we see happen in Samoa every other day.
Speaking of landslides, this is not the first one. Obviously the biggest one of them all at Aleipata remains a reminder of just how dangerous these things can be when we are ignorant about handling them with care. At Aleipata, we were lucky that no lives were taken. This time in Tafua, it’s a different story.
Three deaths is a tragedy, whichever way you look at it. Something needs to be done urgently to ensure there is no repeat.
Today, whisper a prayer for the souls of the deceased men. Pray for peace and for the Spirit of the all-knowing God to touch the hearts and comfort the grieving families. These are very sad times.
But they are times, which should once again remind us all that life is precious and that we need to appreciate every little moment and make it count. We never know what is lurking around the corner.
Have a safe Wednesday Samoa, take care and God bless!