30 Sep 2009

Samoa quake and tsunami death toll rises

2:00 pm on 30 September 2009

The death toll from this morning's quake and tsunami in Samoa and American Samoa has passed 26.

19 people have been confirmed dead in American Samoa and the main village of Pago Pago is said to be completely devestated.

Among the victims are two South Koreans.

Mike Sala, the director of American Samoa office of Homeland Security, says crews are up now trying to restore power and phone lines.

A large number of people have been injured and many have been left homeless.

Our correspondent, Fili Sagapolutele, says the town centre of Pago Pago has been hit badly.

"The main street was flooded, the main street in the town was flooded, cars were overturned with the power of the water that came in, and then you have the businesses along the shore line that were damaged. I also witnessed looting in one of the stores and that is a very terrible thing to happen at this time. There is a lot of clean up going on right now."

The American Samoan member of the US Congress is confident the US government will provide all the necessary assistance.

Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin says help is on its way.

The federal emergency management organisation under the US government does a pretty good job in providing assistance for catastrophies like this. I'm quite confident that the US government is going to provide all the necessary assistance for the people.

Reports from American Samoa there has been looting in Pago Pago, but police have moved in.

The U.S. Coast Guard is sending a C-130 plane to American Samoa to deliver aid and assess damage.

The plane will also take American Samoa Governor, Togiola Tulafono, who was in Honolulu when disaster struck, back home.

A C-130 plane and crew is due to leave Hawaii tonight, in time to arrive at first light in Pago Pago.

Seven people in neighbouring Samoa are reported to have died but the figure is expected to rise.

Four people have died at Fa'aga village at Siumu on the southern coast of Upolu.

There are also deaths reported from Lalomanu village.

Three children are said to have died when a building collapsed at Poutasi Falealili in Upolu, rather than Savaii as earlier reported.

There is widespread damage in villages along the southern coast.

As many as five waves came ashore after the 8.0 quake.

Assessments are being made and New Zealand has offered to assist.

The tsunami warning in Hawaii was lifted about five hours after the quake struck, but in some places, like in French Polynesia's Marquesas islands, the alert was maintained.

The low-lying islands of Tuvalu also remain on alert for a possible tsunami.

A spokesperson for the Meteorological Office Hilia Vavae says the southern island of Niulakita has reported changes in the sea, with more waves but no swell.

Hilia Vavae says nothing unusual has been seen on the main island and the earthquake was not felt there.

Our southern islands have actually seen changes in the sea state. Running to somewhere is not practical for us, we are all low lying and we don't have anywhere to shelter.

A resident of a Samoan coastal village says her home has been destroyed by the tsunami that followed the quake.

Theresa Falele Dussey has been evacuated to Mount Vaea in the Samoan capital of Apia.

Our house has already been taken by the tsunami and some of the houses and cars next to our village have already been taken by the tsunami as well. People are just thankful that it's just the houses and the cars but not themselves, because they're already gone away from the coastal areas.

A reporter, Jonah Tui Le Tufuga in Apia, says he is starting to hear about damaged houses and villages being wiped out.

We also received an early report island that the entire Manono village on Manono island has been totally gone under water early on this morning but luckily most of the residents made it up to higher ground before the actual tsunami hit.

A tour operator for Safua Hotel on the island of Savai'i says he and his family were woken up by a strong shake before 7 o'clock and says it felt like it lasted forever.

Chris Solomona says from his knowledge the 45 second earthquake has not caused any major damage and the whole village has been accounted for.

The reaction this morning, I was amazed. It looked like they panicked but they were just running. So right now slowly some people are coming over on their pick up trucks to bring food because everyone was just running but two hours later nothing happened. So people with pick ups and trucks started coming back to the village to bring them clothes and water and things like that.

Chris Solomona of Safua Hotel.

When the tsunami warning was issued at Niue, ten yachts left their moorings and headed to Tonga.

The Reef Shipping Company cargo ship MV Southern Tiare that was unloading in the roadstead at Alofi headed to sea.

In the Cook Islands, the authorities say the tsunami appears to have passed without any effect on Rarotonga.

The Police Commissioner Maara Tetava says they will keep an eye on the tsunami all day despite making assurances that the danger has passed

Rarotonga is currently hosting the Pacific mini games with more than 1,500 athletes from 21 countries taking part.

Commissioner Tetava says the games will continue but they will continue to monitor the tsunami.

Schools in Tonga have been closed, but no effects have so far been reported.

Australia says some of its nationals in Samoa have been injured.

The epicenter of the quake was located 190 km southwest of American Samoa.

The 8.0 quake was followed by several aftershocks.