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October 27th, 2009
07:36 PM ET

Aftermath of a tsunami: An island of shame

Debris clutters a road in Pago Pago, American Samoa, after a devastating earthquake and tsunami last month.
Debris clutters a road in Pago Pago, American Samoa, after a devastating earthquake and tsunami last month.

Drew Griffin | BIO
CNN Investigative Correspondent

It’s New Orleans all over again. Just 2,600 miles south of Hawaii, so nobody is noticing.

American Samoa IS an American territory, but in some parts, it looked to me like the third world. Children rummaging through broken scraps of what once was a house, a woman making the family meal on an outside counter made from a broken door. A three- year-old, yes just three, walking barefoot through a debris field filled with nails. And where was any sign of government help? Nowhere.

After a devastating tsunami rocked the territory on September 29th, we got a tip by email.

The email told us American Samoa had a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to build a tsunami warning siren system. The system was never built. Thirty-four people died. And it's now the subject of an FBI investigation.

But the trip also uncovered much more: American Samoa’s government has been unresponsive to the needs of its hardest-hit villages. Billions of dollars in U.S. government handouts to this island show little to no signs of doing any good, and despite all the money taxpayers send here, very few federal officials have bothered to find out where it has been spent.

You will see the first of our reports tonight. When you watch, ask yourself what I kept asking: is this really America?

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. maalona elisara

    It is about time a major news media is able to bring to light one of the many corrupt and unaccountable misuse of American taxpayers dollars pouring into this island territory. Unfortunately this time around, the failures of the American Samoa Government to install these Emergency Alert Systems resulted in the lost of lives which could have been prevented.Will be listening.

    October 28, 2009 at 6:55 am |
  2. Patrick

    Hey Anderson it's great to share my thoughts with you,. I would like to know why the American Samoa Government spent U.S. tax dollars on things they didn't need when they clearly needed a warning system.
    After seeing what happened and the death of people that shouldn't have happend. I want to know how they sleep at night!!!
    Thanks so much Anderson my wife and I watch you every night
    and will continue to watch...

    October 28, 2009 at 3:33 am |
  3. alex lyrics

    samoans are proud people and they will help eachother in anyway.

    I found these people to be more polite, and friendlier than Hawaiians in many ways. Hawaiians are also good people.

    These people will survive and fix their land.

    October 27, 2009 at 4:06 pm |
  4. Tim Gibson

    Can or should anyone be surprised by this lack of action. Yet another symbol of failed US government and leadership.

    October 27, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  5. Martina Ilstad Germany

    It took a long time that you CNN realized that this area is a part of America.Thank God you,v got it.

    October 27, 2009 at 2:01 pm |