APIA, Samoa – Samoan officials shifted their focus from rescuing lives to providing survivors with food, water and power, but stressed it didn't mean they were giving up on the missing days after earthquake-triggered waves killed 170 in the region.
Electricity and water services were restored in about half of the affected villages in Samoa and American Samoa, and almost all of the territory was expected to have power from generators within three to five days, said Ken Tingman, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's federal coordinating officer.
FEMA will also establish an office to provide housing assistance to residents displaced after Tuesday's earthquake and tsunami, said American Samoa Gov. Togiola Tulafono.
Taule'alea Laavasa, chairman of the Samoan government's National Disaster Advisory Committee, said Friday that relief work was going well with the help of neighbors including New Zealand and Australia.
But many survivors refused to return to their villages.
"They're scared; a lot of them have been psychologically affected by seeing their relations die in huge numbers," Laavasa said.
The death toll rose to 170, including 129 in Samoa, 32 in the nearby U.S. territory of American Samoa and nine in Tonga.
Tingman said that although they are now focusing more on helping survivors, it didn't mean the missing were being given up for dead.
"You never lose hope," he said.
Some Samoans have been forced to forgo burial rituals because their villages are gone. Other families have had to speed up the burial process because loved ones' bodies were found in such decomposed states.
In Samoa, the government has proposed a mass funeral and burial next week.
The village of Leone, the center of Christianity on the island, was a bleak landscape of rubble. The beach meeting houses that had been the center of cultural rituals and family meetings were destroyed. An overturned van was jammed into the roof of one beach house.
Leone residents estimate the tsunami destroyed about one-third of the village, which has a population of 3,000. The victims were mostly elderly or toddlers. Four villagers were killed while making crafts on the shore.
About two dozen soldiers and airmen from the Hawaii National Guard had the heart-wrenching task Friday of searching through the village's muddy debris for a missing 6-year-old boy named Columbus Sulivai.
Bill Hopkinson, a village chief, said the boy had been on the way to school with his sisters. "When the earthquake hit, instead of seeking higher ground, they came running back home," Hopkinson said. Both girls died.
Samoa's tourism industry, meanwhile, said it feared a "second tsunami" of vacation cancellations after the deadly waves wiped out some of the South Pacific country's most idyllic white-sand beaches and resorts.
Tourism is Samoa's largest industry, and travel industry representatives visiting the main island's wrecked southeast coast said Friday about one-quarter of the tourist accommodations had been destroyed.
Nynette Sass, chief executive of the Samoa Hotel Association, said the industry was alarmed by anecdotal reports of mass vacation cancellations since Tuesday's disaster.
"If substantial numbers of tourists start canceling, that will be like having a second tsunami on us," Sass said. The industry accounts for 25 percent of the country's gross domestic product, she said.
Samoan tourist industry representatives said the damage on the southeast coastline of the main island of Upolu included four resorts and more than 20 family operations that rented simple traditional huts, known as fale.
Sass said many travelers did not realize the tsunami devastated a relatively small part of the coast, though the worst-hit beach area, between the villages of Saleapaga and Lalomanu, was widely regarded by tourists as the most beautiful.
"It's sad that we've had to try to convince people that it's not the whole country that's flooded, infrastructure is still in place and the cleanup is going really fast," she said.
Sass said government assistance would be vital to rebuilding a tourism industry that is worth $130 million a year.