Samoa to Mark 100 Years of the ‘Epidemic’

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  •    Vaimoso mass grave cemetary where some of the 8,000 victims of the epidemic are buried
       Vaimoso mass grave cemetary where some of the 8,000 victims of the epidemic are buried

 

The Spanish Influenza which killed more than 8000 Samoans in 1918 will be marked on the 7th November by Samoa as a nation.

This was announced by the Prime Minister last Thursday in his weekly press conference.

This is the first time Samoa as a nation will mark this tragic part of its history.

People who died in the epidemic were buried in mass graves but locations of these are unidentified.

The only village  in Samoa which could identify its mass grave is Vaimoso the Prime Minister said.

Aulavemai Tafito Selesele a matai of Vaimoso said that they have no record of how many people from Vaimoso perished in the 1918 epidemic.

PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi told media that this is a day for the remembrance of the dead by the living.

It will be a day of prayers and a day for people to reflect on the importance of prioritising health services he added.

A special service will be held at the site of the Vaimoso mass grave on the 7th November. It is planned that a fence will be built around the site and will be funded by the governments of New Zealand and Samoa.

Tuilaepa said commemorating this day is a reminder for Samoa that it must protect itself from diseases especially at the port of entry. The hospital at Satapuala was built for this purpose. This facility will deal with people entering Samoa carrying infectious diseases.

It will also highlight the Ministry of Health programme to lift the standard of its health services in the hospitals in the rural areas through providing a doctor and equipment.

The  Spanish influenza was brought to Samoa by the ship Talune. It was on the 7th November 1918 that the cargo and passenger ship the Talune arrived in Apia from Auckland. On board were people suffering from pneumonic influenza a highly infectious disease already responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world.

Talune had called into Fiji before coming to Samoa and was quarantined. But when it arrived in Samoa the sick were allowed to disembark. The disease spread quickly through Upolu and Savaii and the death toll rose quickly.

An estimated 8500 people died. Bodies were collected in trucks and taken to be buried in mass graves.

The New Zealand Administrator at the time Lieutenant colonel Robert Logan was blamed for his poor handling of the disease. An example was the refusal of medical help from American Samoa.

The poor handling of the epidemic is believed to be an immediate cause of the Mau Movement.

 

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