Second tsunami escape for Southland man

Gordon McKenzie is either lucky or extremely unlucky.

For the second time, the Dipton man has narrowly escaped being caught in a tsunami.

He was working as a chef in the Maldives in 2004 when the Boxing Day tsunami struck, destroying his home and belongings.

History almost repeated on Wednesday when four massive 6-metre high waves tore through Pago Pago on American Samoa, where he has made his home with his wife and son. The bottom floor of his two-storey home was flooded and damaged, but he had learnt from the Maldives experience to head for higher ground when an earthquake struck.

American Samoans were working hard to deal with the devastation from Wednesday's tsunami and return some normality to the Pacific Island, he said.

Less than a day after the waves struck, he was back at work providing food for 40 guests at his hotel.

Residents were slowly returning to their devastated homes to discover their belongings had been swirled around and swept from their homes, he said.

The tsunami had devastated the area, with Pago Pago badly affected, but everyone was dealing with the situation and doing their best to clean their homes and streets, Mr McKenzie said.

American Samoans appeared to be dealing with the destruction in a calm fashion.

"In the Maldives we just wanted to get away from it all because we were scared of a second tsunami, but we know more about these things these days so people are just getting on with it.

"I'm just doing what I think is the right thing to do at the moment. People are out cleaning, doing the best they can – I think they understand the situation," he said.

Power and gas companies were repairing severed lines and residents were pitching in to return things to a working state, salvaging what they could. "Everybody is cleaning up, you can see that everybody's making a big effort – for a little place like this they are really going for it to get things back on line," Mr McKenzie said.

Generators had restored power to parts of Pago Pago and the "cleanup was happening very quickly".

Invercargill resident Eddie Fata, formerly of Samoa, said he had located his friends from Alipata, one of the areas worst struck in Samoa.

His brothers from the northern side of the island were rallying a team to help those affected.

The Invercargill Samoan community would gather soon to decide how to provide aid, he said.

The Southland Times