ANCHORAGE - The South Pacific tsunami that killed nearly 200 people last week led to many anxious and agonizing phone calls in Alaska's largest city.
Thousands of Pacific Islanders came to Anchorage in the 1990s from Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga, building a bridge of family connections between Alaska and island villages.
"Somehow, some way, you're either related to somebody or you know somebody that lost a life," said Matauaina "Moe" Tali, pastor at the Revival Assembly of God, where hundreds of Samoans came to pray during the weekend.
Masae Fanene, a 29-year-old who grew up in Anchorage, told the Anchorage Daily News she lost nine extended family members in the tsunami that pounded Samoa and American Samoa. She said her father, the family's high chief, must now fly to an oceanside village to help rebuild.
Younger members of her Samoan Seventh-day Adventist Church, meanwhile, are ready to volunteer to aid relatives 5,000 miles away. "We're ready to just drop whatever we're doing and go help out," she said.
Former NFL player Mao Tosi organized a fundraiser Saturday that collected more than $5,000 to aid Red Cross relief efforts, and the First Samoan Body of Christ church planned to raise money through a Christian music performance and bake sale.