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LALOMANU, Samoa (AP) – Villagers from a Samoan disaster zone gathered at church Sunday for belated funeral ceremonies—mourning victims of the South Pacific tsunami that obliterated entire communities and killed at least 176 people on both Samoa and American Samoa.

The Congregational Christian Church of Lalomanu was packed with residents, relatives from Australia and New Zealand and rescue workers for a service that lasted more than three hours.

The church was unscathed by the giant wave that struck on Tuesday, sparked by a powerful offshore earthquake, because it is built on higher ground than the many beachside homes that were destroyed.

Representatives of 10 families spoke of the 52 lost relatives who less than a week ago had been part of the congregation.

Failuga Gase, a 52-year-old villager whose home was destroyed, wept silently for four family members.

“It’s a special occasion to memorialize those” who died, the father of three told The Associated Press outside the church. “In our usual way, we have a grave ceremony for those who have died, one by one.”

One woman said her family is saddened that they lost their mother but thankful the tragedy wasn’t compounded.

Luluu Berns said her sister, brother-in-law and their seven children had all survived, although at one point the 16-month-old youngest child was missing.

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