An earthquake in the ocean south-west of American Samoa, measuring 8.3 on the Richter Scale, has sent giant waves barreling towards islands in the Pacific.
Worst hit was Samoa and American Samoa itself, where authorities fear the combined death toll may be as high as 120. Samoa’s deputy prime minister Misa Telefoni says islanders had no warning that the tsunami was on its way.
The earthquake struck Samoa at 6:48 a.m (Samoan time) and was centered 195 kilometres south of the capital, Apia. Most of the damage occurred in the south-east of the country, where many luxury and budget resorts are located. Amongst the scores feared dead are holidaymakers from Australia and New Zealand.
According to reports, villages were destroyed and cars and people swept out to sea as the fast-churning water caught them unaware. While foreign governments prepare to send aid to Samoa, a state of emergency has been declared in American Samoa, a United States territory of about 65,000 people.
Waves resulting from the quake were recorded on New Zealand’s coast, but were not significant enough to cause damage. All tsunami advisories for New Zealand have been cancelled.
A fresh tsunami warning was issued by Samoan authorities hours after the first tsunami hit, although no similar alert was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre. Neither did the US Geological Survey record any new earthquake activity in the area.