Samoans Gather to Remember Tsunami Victims

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Worshippers gathered at a church in the U.S. territory of American Samoa on Sunday for a national prayer service following last week's devastating tsunami. 

About 1,000 people from various denominations met at the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa in the town of Tafuna to pray for the victims and survivors of the tsunami.

"We can give thanks to the Lord for the blessings we received through this catastrophe," Gov. Togiola Talufono said, noting the Samoan spirit of unity. "Although there were so many lives lost because of it, in retrospect, God has spared so many more."

Prayer and songs of worship filled the church as an encouragement to those who lost loved ones in the disaster.

"Faith is most important," church leader Sam Tialavea said. "It's the very basis by which these communities are rounded and rooted and I believe this is probably the reason why also the community has decided to come together for this prayer service."

Failuga Gase attended the service to remember four family members lost in the storm. His home was also destroyed.

"It's a special occasion to memorialize those who died," he told reporters. "In our usual way, we have a grave ceremony for those who have died, one by one."

LuLuu Berns was also thankful that her sister, brother-in-law and seven children had all survived the storm, but her 16-month-old child was missing for a short time.

"Five hours later, they found this little boy on the beach," she said. "He was face down and the father found him and brought him up and shook him a little and he was still alive."

After a devastating 8.3 magnitude earthquake struck underwater last Tuesday, the tsunami tore through Samoa killing 135, including 32 people in American Samoa and nine in nearby Tonga. 

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