Fate lends a hand
A TWIST of fate may have saved the lives of a Hillsborough man and his wife in the tsunami that has laid waste to Samoa.
Newlyweds Opeloge and Margot Ah Sam had planned to spend their honeymoon in Maninoa village on the southern coast of Upolu last week.
But the day before they were to fly out Mr Ah Sam’s father was suddenly taken to hospital and the couple postponed their trip.
Three days later towering tsunami waves thrown up by an 8.3 magnitude earthquake smashed Upolu’s southern coast.
“We were going to stay at the Coconuts Beach Club Resort in Maninoa,” Mr Ah Sam says.
“We’ve seen pictures on TV – the only thing left is the resort’s sign out the front. It’s been completely wiped out.
“If it wasn’t for my father being taken into hospital, well, yeah.”
It’s a very surreal time for the couple who’re feeling a rollercoaster of emotions.
“I feel really blessed my wife and I are still here but at the same time I’m hearing all these stories of the destruction and of the lost lives,” Mr Ah Sam says.
The total death toll has risen to around 180 in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga and is expected to go higher with hundreds still missing.
Among the dead are five New Zealanders including 84-year-old Otara grandmother Tauaavaga Tupuola.
Mr Ah Sam is thankful his family and friends live on the northern side of Upolu, unharmed by the tsunami waves.
He’s also grateful that a class of Samoan students over there from Mangere College, where he teaches, aren’t among those missing, injured or killed.
Mr Ah Sam, head of the college’s music department, says the 15 students aged 15 to 17 are on a cultural trip with seven staff members.
College staff were really worried because the students had been given a couple of days to catch up with their families and some were on the southern side of Upolu.
“I’ve heard from them since and they’re all okay,” he says.
“But one of the young la- dies has lost her grandmother in the tsunami,” he says.
“From what I know most of them are holed up in a hotel somewhere.
“The kids are quite shaken, scared and wanting to come home.”
Mr Ah Sam, who’s also music consultant to the Samoan police band and national orchestra, is considering a trip to Samoa to help “wherever it is needed”.
Before the tsunami he’d been busy organising a concert at the Aotea Centre in November showcasing 13 of his compositions.
He now plans to donate a big portion of the proceeds to the Samoan government.
The show called State of Mind “provides a musical perspective on the way we love, hurt, live and die”, he says.
“Given everything that’s happened I think the emotion of the pieces will have a particular resonance with people.
“When the money is put together I will deliver it personally to the Samoan government and make sure the money is going to the people who need it the most.”
State of Mind stars lyric tenor and Sydney Aria Competition winner Ben Makisi, the Masque Vocal Ensemble of which Mr Ah Sam is music director, Existdance, and the Masque Jazz Quartet.
It’s on for one show only, November 30, 7.30pm, at the Aotea Centre.
For more about the show go to www.opelogeahsam. com.
For tickets, see www.the -edge.co.nz or phone 0800289-842.
Fated: A last-minute family emergency may have saved Mangere College teacher Opeloge Ah Sam and wife Margot from Samoa’s tsunami.