Guests praise calm Sheraton staff during evacuation

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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Emily and Jemima had a dramatic encounter with Cyclone Gita while on holiday break from university.

Emily and Jemima had a dramatic encounter with Cyclone Gita while on holiday break from university.

Australian university students Emily and Jemima had quite the watery adventure during the weekend. 

And while they would be looking back on the experience with a smile, they are grateful for the quick thinking and professionalism of the Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s staff who possibly saved their lives when Cyclone Gita brought some of the worst flooding Samoa has seen during the weekend.

The two girls were among the first tourists evacuated out of the Sheraton Samoa hotel at Vaisigano early Saturday morning when the iconic hotel was flooded.

Here for a quick summer getaway, the students found themselves in the middle of a category one tropical cyclone and were none the wiser about it as they enjoyed their break. 

 “It all started with an innocent night out in beautiful Samoa,” said Emily Zhu. “To be fair, people we met that night did mention a cyclone in passing but we weren’t concerned enough to stop drinking.

“The next morning, still very hungover, the first thing we noticed was that our room was about ankle deep in water at about 7am. 

“Thinking it was just heavy rain and it would wash out eventually, I went back to bed. The next thing we know, the hotel staff are banging on the door and yelling at us to pack up our stuff a.s.a.p. because the water was already knee deep. This was about 7:15am.”

The water rose very quickly and the girls found out firsthand about the power of water pressure as they encountered some difficulties during the evacuation procedure.

“The door was stuck and wouldn’t open, and the windows wouldn’t smash. Eventually, they managed to push the door open from the outside. We salvaged what we could and literally swam out of our room with the help of about seven staff members. 

“We were apparently the first people they evacuated, and by the time we left our room, the water was already about chest deep.”

Emily Zhu's images from their watery escape.
Emily Zhu's images from their watery escape.

Thanks to the quick thinking and action of the hotel staff and management at the Sheraton, the two students and the rest of the guests managed to remain calm. 

They were evacuated out of the hotel and transported to the Sheraton Beach Resort in Mulifanua.

“We were evacuated to the Sheraton Resort at Aggie Lagoon and the other guests in the hotel were all quite calm and collected and didn’t really seem annoyed at all because of the staff getting us robes and food and setting up transport and laundry services.”

“The staff was amazing during this whole experience, so a huge thank you to the Sheraton Aggie Grey’s Hotel and Bungalow staff! I was surprised our phones and passports survived the swim to the lobby.”

Despite a dramatic exit out of their hotel accommodation, Emily maintains that she and her companion prefer to see the lighter side of things and that they would still recommend Samoa as a holiday destination.

“We might sound crazy, but we were honestly laughing about the whole experience. 

It was obviously devastating but with an Aussie attitude, we kept looking on the light side of things (keeping in mind I had to leave my whole suitcase flooded in the room). I definitely would recommend Samoa to anyone, even during wet/cyclone season. “

The two friends left for Australia at 6pm on Sunday. 

They were pleasantly surprised that their flight was not cancelled.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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