Plea to Kiwis to dig deep for Samoa

Aid agencies are asking New Zealanders to dig deep and give generously as they deal with the carnage of the earthquake and tsunami which has killed scores of people in Samoa, Tonga and American Samoa this week.

The tsunami swept ashore on the southern coast of Samoa's main island, of Upolu, destroying villages, killing about 115 people in Samoa and about 35 in American Samoa and Tonga after an 8.3 magnitude earthquake on Wednesday.

Two New Zealanders have been confirmed as dead, while one is missing presumed dead.

That toll does not include a two-year-old boy who lived with his British parents in Auckland, who is missing presumed dead.

He had been on a beach on Samoa's main island of Upolu when the 6m wave struck.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said his parents, who have not been named, were at the New Zealand High Commission in Apia receiving help.

Australian media have reported that a New Zealand toddler with permanent Australian residency is also among the dead.

The New Zealand Government believed about 700 New Zealanders were in Samoa when the tsunami struck, 593 are confirmed as alive and well.

Many villagers on the southern coast of Samoa were left with nothing, New Zealand Police Pacific liaison officer Superintendent Ross Ardern told NZPA.

"They are standing with what they ran from the waves in, they have nothing else," Mr Ardern said.

He said in a tight Christian, family community people were suffering badly at the loss of so many family members. One man lost 11 member of his family.

"It goes to the heart of the matter, straight to the heart," he said.

Mr Ardern said New Zealand had a great affinity with the Pacific Islands people and that made dealing with such a level of death and destruction very hard to cope with.

He said if people wanted to help, they should give money to one of the number appeals launched to rebuild the lives of the Samoan people.

"Give generously. Give whatever you can because these people need it.

"They have lost absolutely everything. From the New Zealand perspective, they did not have a lot to start with but what they did have, they have lost."

A New Zealand police body identification team arrived in Samoa yesterday and further military aid was due today.

An air force Boeing 757 left Whenuapai about 8am today with medical evacuation and search and rescue teams as well as general stores.

Later in the morning an air force Hercules carrying a Pinzgauer army truck, a desalination plant to provide fresh water and other relief supplies was also due to leave Whenuapai for the Samoa.

Mr Ardern said the scale of the damage was as great as anyone could imagine.

Rosemarie North from the New Zealand Red Cross said rescuers faced 40km of disaster with rubble and trees strewn over the coast.

She said access around the coast was not a problem and aid was flowing well.

New Zealand had already been particularly generous and the Red Cross was supplying some of the basic needs of life.

"We have got blankets, kitchen sets, pots and pans and things for people who have lost everything, obviously food and water."

Agencies taking donations for Samoa and Tonga include:

* The New Zealand Red Cross' Samoa tsunami relief project (www.givealittle.co.nz);

* Oxfam NZ's rapid response emergency fund (www.oxfam.org.nz, 0800 400 666, or automatic $20 donations on 0900 600 20);

* The Pacific Cooperation Foundation tsunami relief fund (deposits at any Westpac branch);

* ANZ Banking Group appeal to assist families in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga (ANZ branches, or directly to ANZ Samoa Appeal Fund account number 01-1839-0143546-00, with all proceeds will go directly to the Red Cross) ;

* Unicef NZ (www.unicef.org.nz, or 0800 800 194);

* The Salvation Army (www.salvationarmy.org.nz, or 0800 530 000);

* World Vision NZ appeal (0800 800 776);

* Mercury Energy (customers can text "Samoa" followed by a dollar amount, their first name and their customer account number to 515);

* Caritas Aotearoa appeal (www.caritas.org.nz, or 0800 221 022);

* Advent Development and Relief Agency NZ (0800 4999 111);

* Rotary NZ appeal (Westpac, account number: 03-1702-0192208-02);

* Pacific Cooperation Foundation (Westpac, account number: 03-0539-0234978-01);

* Telstra Clear (donating the value of phone calls made to Samoa by customers over the last 48 hours to the Red Cross).

* There is a new number for New Zealanders concerned about family members - 0800 432 111.

NZPA