Deadly tsunamis strike in Pacific

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tsunamis triggered by a strong quake in the South Pacific have killed at least 90 people across a number of islands.
At least 65 people were reported dead in Samoa, more than 20 in American Samoa and at least six in Tonga.
Samoan officials say whole villages have been destroyed while thousands of people are reported to have been made homeless in American Samoa.
An 8.3-magnitude quake struck at 1748 GMT on Tuesday, generating 15ft (4.5m) waves in some areas of the islands.
The Samoa islands comprise two separate entities - the nation of Samoa and American Samoa, a US territory. The total population is about 250,000.
The water was swirling like a spa pool outwards [towards] the rim of the lagoon and in a few seconds the water sunk
Ula Osasa-ManoEyewitness
How earthquakes happen
Animated guide: Tsunamis
In pictures: Samoan tsunami
A general tsunami warning was issued for the wider South Pacific region but was cancelled a few hours later.
The general manager of Samoa's National Health Service told the BBC that 65 people had died and 145 people were injured.
US President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in American Samoa, enabling federal funding to made available to help victims.
Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said he was shocked at the devastation.
"So much has gone. So many people are gone," he told the AAP news agency.
False alarm
"Some of the areas are only a few feet above sea level, so you can imagine the devastation," said Eni Faleomavaega, who represents American Samoa in the US.
"It caused severe damage to property, there are cars floating everywhere."

High waves damaged property and swept cars out to sea
Mr Faleomavaega told the BBC the waves had "literally wiped out all the low-lying areas in the Samoan islands".
He said the tsunami had hit within minutes of the quake, leaving people with no time to escape.
"There would have been no warning system capable of giving adequate warning to the people," he said.
Samoa's Deputy PM Misa Telefoni told Australia's AAP news agency that "the ocean went out within five minutes".
"With the location and the intensity... I don't know if anything better could have been done."
Officials at the Samoa Meteorology Division said many of those who died were killed by a second wave after they went to gather fish that had been washed up after the first.
Sirens reportedly blared out across the Samoan capital, Apia, again late on Tuesday but the warning was thought to be a false alarm.

Dr Lemalu Fiu, at a hospital in Apia, said the number of casualties was expected to rise as people arrived from coastal areas.
Mr Telefoni said there were fears the major tourism areas on the west side of Upolu island had been badly hit.
"We've had a pretty grim picture painted of all that coast," he said.
Australia said one of its citizens was feared dead with six missing. Both Australia and New Zealand are preparing to send emergency aid.
Samoan officials say it could take a week before the full extent of the damage is known.
A government official in Tonga said at least six people had been killed and four more were missing.
Beaches gone
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) said the quake struck at a depth of 33km (20 miles), some 190km (120 miles) from Apia in Samoa.
American Samoa governor Togiola Tulafono on the 'four waves'
Radio New Zealand quoted Samoan residents as saying that villages were inundated and homes and cars swept away.
Graeme Ansell, a New Zealander near Apia, told the radio station the beach village of Sau Sau Beach Fale had been "wiped out".
"There's not a building standing. We've all clambered up hills, and one of our party has a broken leg. There will be people in a great lot of need around here," he said.
Witnesses have reported scenes of destruction.
"It's horrible... The village is gone and my once beautiful beachfront villa has now been submerged in water.

after fleeing the area on a small fishing boat with his wife and son.


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