WELLINGTON, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand was ready to help Samoa, and the Pacific, following an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale and subsequent tsunami Wednesday morning, Foreign Minister Murray McCully said.
As the tsunami makes its way through the Pacific, the New Zealand government is likely to send an Orion aircraft to Samoa to help search for survivors and assess damage.
The government and defense force were waiting to see how the tsunami affected other Pacific nations, a spokesman for McCully said.
The strong earthquake, which struck Samoa at 6:48 a.m. local time (17:48 GMT Tuesday, 05:48 a.m. New Zealand time Wednesday), was centered 195 km south of the Samoa capital of Apia. It was at a depth of 18 km.
The quake has caused casualties and damages.
A tsunami warning had been issued by the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
The warning covers Samoa, American Samoa, New Zealand, Niue, Wallis-Futuna, Tokelau, Cook Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Kermadec Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Howland-Baker, Jarvis Isand Palmyra Is.
A tsunami has hit Samoa following the earthquake.
The foreign minister's office had received reports of five people dead in Samoa and "many more washed out to sea" following the tsunami there Wednesday morning, the New Zealand Press Association reported.
Tonga was also hit by four-meter waves which have caused damage.
People had moved to higher ground and no casualties had been reported despite the "significant" waves, the spokesman said.
In Tokelau, which comprises three low-lying atolls, people remained on alert and were taking precautions and moving to higher ground.
No high waves had been seen but people were waiting to see whatwould come.
Niue was reasonably safe because it was high and the concern there was for people out on the water, the spokesman said.
In Suva, Fiji, there were reports of waves hitting around 10 a.m. local time but no damage was reported.
Neither Vanuatu, Kiribati, New Caledonia nor the Solomon Islands had reported high waves.