By Jordy Yager - 10/02/09 01:00 AM EDT
In the aftermath of what appears to be the worst natural disaster on
American soil since Hurricane Katrina, President Barack Obama called
American Samoan Del. Eni Faleomavaega (D) on Thursday to ask for an
on-the-ground assessment of U.S. recovery efforts.
“Eni, I just
wanted to see how everything is going over there, and Michelle and I
wanted to convey our condolences and sympathies to the victims and
families in American Samoa,” said Obama, according to Faleomavaega’s
The waves ripped through houses and businesses, throwing surrounding vehicles and boats through any structures left standing, according to local news reports.
Faleomavaega told Obama that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was on the ground conducting surveys and “responding quickly to the crisis.”
Two FEMA teams were shipped in by military aircraft with Faleomavaega to join members of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Hawaii National Guard in their disaster recovery efforts on Wednesday night.
Obama has declared American Samoa a major disaster zone with more than 150 reported deaths in the region, at least 31 of which were in American Samoa.
Under former president George W. Bush, FEMA came under heavy criticism for not responding sooner to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans in 2005.
On Thursday FEMA chief Craig Fugate praised the agency’s response in American Samoa to reporters in a conference call, adding that within 40 hours from getting notice, teams were actively assisting on the island, distributing food and water, power generators, medical supplies and other emergency aid.
Obama also acknowledged Faleomavaega’s request for humanitarian assistance from USAID and the U.S. State Department for the neighboring island of Samoa, assuring him “that Samoa has the full support of the White House and Administration, and that he is closely monitoring the situation,” according to Faleomavaega's office.