5 Nov 2018

Holiday to mark 100 years since start of influenza pandemic in Samoa

12:56 pm on 5 November 2018

A public holiday has been declared for Wednesday in Samoa, to mark 100 years since the start of the influenza pandemic that killed about a fifth of the population.

The steamship Talune at the Napier breakwater in 1908.

The steamship Talune at the Napier breakwater in 1908. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library Reference: 1/2-080543-F

On 7 November, 1918, the SS Talune arrived in Apia with sick passengers on board.

The New Zealand administrators allowed the Talune in with no quarantine checks, and the disease spread rapidly, killing an estimated 20 percent of the population - at least 8,500 people - in less than two months.

The bumbling handling of the outbreak and the indifference of the colonial administrator, Robert Logan, was a catalyst for a movement against New Zealand rule.

Samoa's government said the commemoration will be marked with a public holiday, church service and ceremony at the mass grave at Vaimea, one of dozens of mass graves that dot the country.

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