On Friday, four of us participated in a volunteer shoreline cleanup in the village of Leone. Leone was one of the hardest hit villages in American Samoa, with loss of life and destruction of property. It’s located toward the southwest end of the island. The cleanups are done in a few different villages and organized by the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources. Village residents, DMWR personnel, and other volunteers participate. We gathered in the shade (it’s hot even at 8:30am!) to wait for everyone to gather.
We could see the remnants of the tsunami’s destruction even though much of the debris had been cleared away: concrete slabs with no house left, twisted roofs on structures still standing, crushed vehicles.
from the folding and ripping of corrugated iron roofing.
FEMA-provided tents can be seen on the left.
Over the course of about three hours, including breaks, I estimate we collected about 30 mega-garbage bags of debris, plus large items that couldn’t fit in bags. The DMWR folks were so good at loading up and hauling away that I didn’t get a good count. However, it seemed that we made a pretty good dent in the land debris.
For the last hour, a few of us got in the water thinking we’d snorkel around and get an idea of how much debris was on the reef flat, maybe pick up a bit of debris and put it in a basket atop a boogie board. However, we had barely gotten our heads in the water before we started seeing debris, especially yards and yards of fabric draped across coral heads.
We worked nonstop pulling out corrugated metal roofing, fabric and clothing, and the odd pot or pan. We didn’t do a comprehensive survey (or any survey at all, really), but we felt we’d barely scratched the surface. Still, there’s something intensely satisfying about helping out with a marine debris cleanup.
After the cleanup we met at Lions Park to enjoy food donated by several of the village residents who had lost the most.
and KFC at the relaxing and picturesque Lions Park.
Oh, and by the way, while we were helping with the cleanup, the remaining eight members of the team arrived, about 12 hours late. Their flight had turned around partway here and returned to Honolulu. We were sure glad to see them.