Thu, October 01, 2009
World > Asia-Pacific > Strong quake triggers tsunami in Samoa

More than 114 dead in Pacific tsunami

2009-10-01 00:55:39 GMT2009-10-01 08:55:39 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

WELLINGTON, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- The death toll stood at more than 114 and was expected to climb higher, as Samoa, America Samoa and Tonga were struggling in the aftermath of the devastating tsunamis and earthquake.

A major rescue operation was underway after waves as high as 6 meters swept-in more than 1 km inland following an 8.0 magnitude earthquake on Wednesday.

Relief workers were searching for others swept away by waves up to six meters high.

Samoa's disaster management office said more than 32,000 people have been affected in some way by the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that struck in the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday.

The office puts the confirmed death in Samoa at 83, though it expects the figure will rise. In neighboring American Samoa 24 people have perished and seven people died in Tonga in the aftermath of the 8.0 magnitude quake, Radio New Zealand reported on Thursday.

The Red Cross in Samoa has set up camps for those displaced. More than 3,000 people became homeless.

Samoa's disaster management office is working around the clock to get help to villages hit by the tsunami.

A spokesperson at the office, Filomena Nelson, said many of the dead are women and children.

Spokeswoman Filomena Nelson told Radio New Zealand that many were unable to get quickly to evacuation centers and some were caught as they attempted to drive to safety.

Samoan medical facilities were under pressure and staff said there is a shortage of doctors and nurses to treat the injured.

Hospital blood banks are running out of blood and many of the victims are expected to need surgery.

Samoa's Disaster Management Committee will return to the hardest hit area, Samoa's south coast to help evacuate tourists and locals.

Nynette Sass, who belongs to the committee, and is also the chief executive of the Samoa Hotel Association, was in the south coast disaster zone on Wednesday.

She told Radio New Zealand International that the area was like a war zone and tourists were in a complete daze.

"Most of them have pretty much lost everything. There's no passports, no money, nothing. What we are doing at the moment is bringing the tourists over to the town hotels because everything is fine here on the north shore. We'll continue to move the tourists over to the other side of the island, so that we can sort them out and at least then they are closer to the high commissions," she was quoted as saying.

Chinese Ambassador to Samoa Ma Chongren went to the disaster-hit area on the southern side of the main island of Upolu on Wednesday to assess the damages. He told Xinhua by phone that he was "shocked" by the disaster.

He said the waves were up to six meters high and the houses in some villages and tourists resorts in the southern coastal area were destroyed. Roads and telecommunications have been badly damaged.

Ma said the Chinese embassy has launched the emergency mechanism and so far, there were no reports of any Chinese killed or wounded by the devastating tsunamis and earthquake.

New Zealand is among several countries offering Samoa aid, and has sent an Air force Hercules carrying emergency supplies and medical staff. The navy vessel HMNZS Canterbury is being prepared to carry other supplies.

Australia is sending charter aircraft with medical supplies, search and rescue teams and disaster recovery equipment.

Australia is giving 2 million Australian dollars (1.74 million U.S. dollars) in aid and the European Commission has announced about 150,000 euros (219,000 U.S. dollars) in initial emergency aid.

New Zealand police officers will arrive in Samoa on Thursday to help set up communications and assist disaster victim identification.

New Zealand's Red Cross is planning to send tarpaulins, water containers and first aid kits to Samoa.

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