30 Sep 2009

Samoa disaster toll soars

3:22 pm on 30 September 2009

The death toll from this morning's tsunami and 8.0 earthquake off Samoa is feared to soar.

26 death have been confirmed but Samoa's disaster management office says the disaster may have killed up to 100 people.

The Assistant Chief Executive Ausegalia Mulipola says teams are still searching for victims of the tsunami, with reports some villages in the country's southeast had been destroyed.

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.

Most of the resorts and hotels along the south coast of Upolu Island in Samoa have been wiped out by this morning's earthquake and tsunami.

The Hotel Association's chief executive Nynette Sass says there were only a few minutes between the long 8.0 earthquake and the devastating waves which have wiped out accommodation on the coast.

"I'm still very impressed with the way people managed to get the guests out. Okay there's quite a few casualities and there's quite a few people missing, but the majority of the people were evacuated. There's nothing left on the south coast."

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.

The waves that hit Pago Pago in American Samoa are said to have been up to five metres high.

Emergency workers are now attempting to clear roads and restore power and phone services.

Mike Sala, the director of American Samoa's office of homeland security, says power is completely off on the west side of the island

Some buildings were completely demolished by the waves, you know, there's no buildings anymore except the foundation. This is in the village of Pago Pago. There is a two story building, the Pago plaza and the second floor was hit, so that estimated [the waves were] about 20 foot.

Our correspondent, Fili Sagapolutele, has seen the centre of Pago Pago.

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.

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 remained on alert for longer.

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 seven of its nationals in Samoa have been injured.

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