Lennox Head-based resort owner George Leslie
Lennox Head-based resort owner George Leslie

Local man's tsunami shock

FOUR hours after an earthquake hit Samoa and a tsunami lashed the coast on Tuesday, George Leslie didn't know if his surf resort at Upolu was still standing.

“We have been spared, incredibly,” he said yesterday.

“I know the weather well, it took four hours to find out if the resort was safe, there was inaccurate reporting in the media and I was relieved to hear our business was moderately safe.”

While Mr Leslie didn't feel the earthquake shake at his Lennox Head home, he was given a first-hand account of the catastrophe from business partner Paul Robertson who was at the Sa-Monana resort when disaster struck.

“It felt like someone with massive hands had grabbed the fale (building) and was shaking it,” Mr Robertson told him over the phone.

The massive shake was a warning and came moments before the water in the lagoon surrounding the resort began to recede.

Mr Leslie said his business partner immediately piled guests into vans and evacuated to high ground for three hours.

The resort was hit by the tsunami, but suffered only light damage compared with the devastation wrought elsewhere in Samoa.

Yesterday surf company Rip Curl spoke to Mr Leslie about organising a disaster fund that would directly reach the people of Samoa.

“One of the greatest things people can donate is tourism. Get over there,” Mr Leslie said.

“Every tala (Samoan money) helps more than a bunch of clothes. The worst thing that could happen is that people stop going there.”

Four Australians and one permanent resident of Australia have been confirmed dead in Samoa.

Help is at hand for the most devastated disaster areas, with 88 Australian personnel and supplies already deployed to Samoa.

Meanwhile, Broken Head-based MLC and survivor of the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, Ian Cohen, yesterday said the situation around Padang in Sumatra was 'pretty bad'.

Mr Cohen said Padang was well known among North Coast surfers and he had been updated on the situation there yesterday by a representative of SurfAid.

Recalling his experience in Sri Lanka, Mr Cohen said it could take time for friends or family to get in touch because communication systems tended to break down after major disasters.

Anyone concerned about friends or relatives should contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on 1300 555 135

How the disasters unfolded September 29:
An 8.1 magnitude earthquake hits south-west of Samoa, followed by a tsunami at Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga, killing 110 and injuring 147.
September 30: A 7.6 magnitude earthquake hits 50km north-west of Padang City.
October 1: A 6.6 magnitude earthquake strikes 215km south-east of Padang City. Fatalities last night stood at 1100 and were expected to rise. Authorities were still trying to reach 58 Australians in the region.
Information: Anyone with concerns for friends and family should call Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on 1300 555 135.

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