Veterans off to Samoa

TWO Northern Rivers veterans of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia say they are ready to help victims of yesterday's tidal surge in Samoa and American Samoa.

Lismore anaesthetists Brian Pezzutti and David Scott were both part of the Australian Defence Force's relief effort in Aceh after the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Dr Scott, a Wing Commander in the RAAF Specialist Reserve, and Dr Pezzutti, a Brigadier in the Army Reserve, yesterday said they were waiting to hear whether they would be needed to help with the disaster, which, as of yesterday afternoon, was believed to have killed at least 36 people. Authorities expected the death toll to rise significantly.

At least one Australian woman - a 53-year-old from Tasmania - has been found among the dead. Australian authorities say they are also concerned about the safety of six Australians, while another three are in hospital.

The tsunami hit following a powerful earthquake, measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale, early yesterday morning and has wiped out entire villages and popular resort areas in Samoa and American Samoa.

There were 22 confirmed dead in American Samoa and 14 in neighbouring Samoa with unconfirmed reports of scores more missing feared dead following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

People in American Samoa were confronted with a wall of water about 7.5 metres high.

Dr Pezzutti said he was prepared to go, but whether he and Dr Scott would be needed would depend on how the government responded to the disaster.

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