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Published Jul. 7, 2010

Associated Press

LEONE, American Samoa - The village of Leone is a picturesque enclave that has been a mainstay of the Samoas for centuries, a place where residents gather under beach meeting houses for rituals that are sacred to the local culture.

Today, much of the village is a bleak landscape of rubble.

An overturned van is stuck in the roof of one of the beach houses. Four elderly villagers were killed while gathered on the shore to weave Samoan mats and crafts. A 6-year-old boy and two sisters were swept away on their way to school. The post office is gone. So is the grocery store.

The carnage in hard-hit Leone offers a glimpse into how this week's deadly earthquake and tsunami in Samoa and American Samoa decimated centuries of culture on two islands that are steeped in tradition.

Samoans have been forced to forgo burial rituals because their villages are gone. Some families have had to speed up the burial process because their loved ones' bodies were discovered in such decomposed states. The beach gathering spots, known as fale, were overrun by the tsunami.

The death toll from Tuesday's disaster rose to 170, including 129 in Samoa, 32 in American Samoa and nine in Tonga.