Oakland, CA-The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is announcing that Phase II of the American Samoan permanent housing construction program was completed on September 17, 2011. Titles to all 39 homes have now been transferred to families who lost their dwellings to the earthquake generated Tsunami that claimed 31 lives and devastated large parts of the island on September 29, 2009.

FEMA officials noted that this permanent housing solution honors communal living conditions practiced on the island, while meeting the long-term housing needs of families displaced by the disaster.   Local resident Ms. Eseta Suis, agreed, saying she felt “blessed” to have moved her family into one of the newly constructed homes.  “We finally made it; we have a beautiful house and it is lovely inside and outside. My family and I are very happy because without the FEMA we don’t know where we would get the money to build a house like this.”

“Completing these homes is another major stride in the long-term recovery effort underway in America Samoa,” said FEMA Region IX Administrator Nancy Ward, whose office coordinated federal relief efforts in American Samoa.  “The federal family, and the government of American Samoa have kept their promise to help rebuild the community, and these homes are proof of that commitment.”

Due to the unique recovery needs and challenges on the island, FEMA, in coordination with its federal partners and the American Samoa Government, implemented permanent housing construction in an initial pilot program that saw 8 houses built as part of the American Samoa recovery strategy.  This was the first such housing mission under the authority granted by Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (PKEMRA), which authorizes FEMA to provide assistance for the construction of permanent housing in insular areas outside the United States and in other locations if no alternative housing resources are available.

“A new home means a new beginning after facing terrible loss,” said Togiola T.A. Tulafono, Governor of American Samoa.  “These new houses are now a part of our community, and will serve as an anchor for families to continue to rebuild their lives after the disaster.”

FEMA has worked closely with the American Samoa Government, its federal and voluntary agency partners, in to provide the following assistance to the island and its residents in response to the disaster:

o      Obligated more than $40 million in FEMA’s Individual Assistance programs.  This includes assistance under various FEMA programs, including Housing Assistance, Other Needs Assistance (dental, medical, moving, storage) and a variety of other needs.
o      Obligated more than $49 million to the ASG to rebuild public infrastructure, mitigate against future disasters and reimburse the American Samoa government for some of the money spent during the initial response.

Immediately following the earthquake and tsunami, FEMA and its partners were able to quickly employ an “air bridge” to bring in planeloads of resources, including generators, tents, medical teams and supplies.  Other assistance in the early days and weeks included:

o      Volunteer partners helped with repairs to damaged homes
o      U.S. Army corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), removed hazardous debris from the harbor.
o      As a result of the tsunami, the Satala Power Plant was severely damaged, causing a 60 percent loss of power generation on the island. Through a coordinated effort between FEMA, USACE, and the ASG, power was fully restored within three weeks.
o      Provided temporary housing and sheltering to those whose homes were destroyed or left uninhabitable:
o      Distributed 1,292 dome tents within weeks of the tsunami.
o      Provided 473 Celina tents to 18 villages across the island. (A FEMA staffer designed a special floor using pallets and plywood to serve as floors for the Celina tents. American Samoa Government workers built the decks.)
o      Distributed short term housing kits including tents, comfort kits, cots/sleeping mats, camp stoves and fuel to villages.
o      FEMA and the USACE erected 12 temporary classrooms to support five damaged or destroyed schools.  These high tech structures are designed to withstand winds of up to 140 mph.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

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