Child of the tsunami: Samoa one year on

By Jared Savage

Lau'iliu Paneta with his mother Solema. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Lau'iliu Paneta with his mother Solema. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Lau'iliu Paneta is what locals call a child of the tsunami. One of the survivors of the Samoan disaster, Lau'iliu lived in the village of Saleapaga in which 30 people lost their lives.

Twelve months ago, we found the 3-year-old kicking and screaming in a makeshift medical centre in the hills above the stricken south coast.

He was hungry and homeless; his family had fled into the bush above Saleapaga, too scared to return to sea level for medical treatment.

Doctors were trying to treat a cut on his head, as untreated wounds could become infected, leading to death from blood poisoning. Tears streaming down his face, Lau'liu wasn't having any of it.

Today, he is much happier. With a small scar on his scalp, he poses with his mother, Solema, in a new fale a stone's throw from the medical tent.

The entire village of Saleapaga has moved into the bush, far away from the sea.

One year after the tsunami, the Weekend Herald returned to see how the people of Samoa have coped with rebuilding their lives.

- NZ Herald

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