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Iconic airport fale brought down after it was declared a safety hazard

Space where airport fale previously stood.

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The fale Samoa at the Pago Pago International Airport in Tafuna is no more. The space where it previously stood was home to numerous cultural welcoming ceremonies, farewell rituals, and photo memories for more than three decades.

The Department of Port Administration had to take the building down because it was a safety hazard to daily airport users. In fact, it was blocked off for several months before it was demolished last month. Port Acting Director Falenaoti Loi-On Fruean said the building was fully dilapidated.

Former leader of the American Samoa Historic Preservation Office (ASPHO) John Enright documented its construction in 1990.  He said Public Works undertook the ambitious project to build the traditional fale tele and hired matai tufuga Togiva Vaia’u and a crew of young men for him to train and direct. It took a while. Cyclone Ofa hit when it was half finished, but left it unscathed while flattening cement-block buildings around it.

Port tried to salvage some of the beautiful carved and decorated wood but Ms. Loi-On Fruean said when they took them down there was nothing worth keeping. The Port leader added that the fale Samoa space will be included in the new terminal expansion footprint. She added that Port does plan to build another fale Samoa in due time.