Man from Western Samoa talks about loss of loved one

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SALT LAKE CITY -- People in Samoa are scrambling to get to dry ground and many are waiting for relatives to show up. Tonight leaders say at least 120 people have died in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Monday night, we were sad to report that among the dead are two relatives a producer at KSL-TV. On Tuesday, her uncle, who is visiting Utah from Western Samoa, talked to us about the family's loss.

Sam Schwenke's home wasn't damaged, but he wishes he was there to help those who are left to rebuild their lives, including some very close family members.

It's just a sad thing to happen, just like that," said Schwenke.

When an earthquake and tsunami devastated his island of Samoa, he had no idea because he was on a plane to Utah. In town to celebrate his father's 80th birthday, Schwenke is now grieving the loss of another relative, his 59-year-old cousin, Tui Annandale, who, along with her husband, owned a resort on the country's south coast.

"When my brother told me, when I got in last night from the airport, I was in tears because we're so close," Schwenke said.

Schwenke says his cousin was riding in the back of her husband's truck when they were hit by a wave. The woman's son did an interview with a New Zealand news station moments after getting the tragic news from his father.

"He went and started looking for my mum, and an hour, about an hour and a half later, he found my mother," the son told 3 News.

In Magna, a prayer service at the First Congregational Christian Church of Samoa in Utah, brought together many Samoans affected by the disaster.

"No matter we are far from the island, we hear the voice and we feel the voice and we are Samoa," said Reverend Sai Tafaoialii.



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