New Zealand Red Cross disaster response co-ordinator
Douglas Clark, of Dunedin, stands amid some of the
destruction left by Cyclone Evan in Samoa's capital Apia.
While most New Zealanders were Christmas shopping or
unwrapping presents, Dunedin man Douglas Clark was lending a
helping hand in Samoa in the wake Cyclone Evan.
Cyclone Evan hit Samoa on December 13, leaving a wake of
destruction and killing at least five people, with others
still missing and the death toll likely to climb. As part of
his role as a New Zealand Red Cross disaster response
co-ordinator, Mr Clark led a team of five New Zealanders who
helped at evacuation centres, where thousands of people from
wrecked and damaged homes have sheltered since the cyclone
hit. He left on December 18 and arrived back in Dunedin on
Mr Clark, who has responded to many other disasters around
the world, said the devastation in Apia - which suffered the
most damage in Samoa - was shocking.
Most of the damage in Apia was caused when its largest river
turned into a ''wall of water'', destroying houses in the
narrowest part of the river valley.
He said there would have been many more deaths had the flash
flood occurred at night when there would have been no
The New Zealand Red Cross response involved helping make sure
disease did not break out in evacuation centres, which in the
initial aftermath were home to anywhere from 5000 to 8000
''When you get a lot of people bundled together in [an]
environment like that, it's just a recipe for diseases,'' he
His team worked alongside Samoa Red Cross, handing out
hygiene kits and ensuring people had access to fresh water.
There were still between 2000 and 3000 people at the centres,
which would be needed for a while, he said. The Samoan
Government said 400 homes were destroyed by the cyclone.
Mr Clark said if people wanted to donate to the response
effort it was best to give money rather than items such as
clothes and blankets, which took a long time to process and
''clogged up'' the system.