Wed, September 30, 2009
World > Asia-Pacific > Strong quake triggers tsunami in Samoa

Samoa quake and tsunami death toll rises to 26

2009-09-30 01:45:01 GMT2009-09-30 09:45:01 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

WELLINGTON, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from Wednesday morning's 8.0 magnitude quake and tsunami in Samoa and American Samoa has surpassed 26.

Reports from American Samoa said 19 people have died, including two South Koreans, Radio New Zealand International reported on Wednesday.

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

The town center of Pago Pago has been hit badly, with main street flooded, cars overturned, the radio said.

In neighboring Samoa, seven people were reported to have died but the figure was expected to rise.

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

There were also deaths reported from Lalomanu village.

There was widespread damage in villages along the southern coast.

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.

The death toll from the early morning tsunami that hit the southern side of the main island of Upolu in Samoa continued to grow as rescue workers and government disaster agencies try and reach villages along the coast.

Editor of the Environment Weekly magazine, Cherelle Jackson, who visited one of these villages said the whole village at Poutasi Village was flattened and debris and dead fish strewn all over the road and on the beach, the Pacnews reported.

Poutasi village is 45-minute drive from the capital, Apia.

"Initial reports from the villagers here, who are still in state of shock said eight people are believed dead and 20 injured. There are many more missing as villagers begin to do a head count of their families," said Jackson.

Samoa Observer Editor Keni Lesa said from the capital Apia that the casualty number was expected to increase once rescue workers, police and other government agencies reach these areas devastated by the early morning tsunami, the Pacnews said.

A tsunami warning was issued earlier by the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

The warning covered 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.

Xie Yancun, a diplomat from the Chinese Embassy to Samoa, told Xinhua from Apia by phone that the strong quake jolted him awake, he evacuated from the house immediately. Then, he felts aftershocks. Later he found some items dropped on the floor in his office.

Xie said it was a very strong quake and many local people have been evacuated to higher ground in Apia following the tsunami warning.

The quake lasted as long as a minute-and-a-half, the spokesman for the national disaster office of Samoa said, and people in the capital Apia were continuing to experience aftershocks.

The Tsunami Warning Center said the tsunami had been observed at Apia, Samoa, and at Pago Pago, in American Samoa.

The waves at Pago Pago were 1.57 meters above normal sea level.

There was a red alert in French Polynesia as a tsunami is expected to hit shortly.

A two-meter wave is expected to hit the Marquesas islands while a 90-centimeter wave is forecast for the Society island and the Tuamotus.

On the island of Nukunono in Tokelau, preparations are under way in case any big waves arrive after the earthquake.

In New Zealand, the Civil Defense has issued a warning for all of New Zealand.

The head of Civil Defense in New Zealand, John Hamilton, said the Ministry has alerted the country's emergency groups and has activated the National Crisis Management Center.

It advises people to listen broadcasts on radio from local civil defense authorities and local emergency services.

It does not expect New Zealand to experience the same impact as Samoa, but people in coastal areas, especially on eastern and northern coasts, should be ready to be evacuate promptly if they are told to.

Three other quakes have been felt in the region.

A magnitude 5.6 earthquake hit the same area following the 8.0 magnitude earthquake, the United States Geological Survey said.

Another 5.6 quake struck the northern Cook Islands region and the Tonga region was rattled by a 5.8 quake after the 8.0 magnitude earthquake.

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