By Josephine Latu of Pacific Media Watch
Includes updated video at bottom of this report.
A huge tsunami struck American Samoa and Samoa early day, causing many deaths in both Pacific island groups.
Initial reports from Sky News put the death toll in American Samoa at 14, while upgraded reports estimate the death toll in Western Samoa at over 100.
The tsunami was generated by a powerful subsea quake measuring 8.3 in magnitude which struck at 6.48am about 190km southwest of American Samoa and 200km from Samoa, according to the US Geological Service.
An aftershock quake measuring 5.6-magnitude happened 20 minutes later.
Entire coastal villages have reportedly been “wiped out”, including the village of Manono in Samoa, a local journalist told Radio New Zealand.
Samoa resident Theresa Falele Dussey said houses and cars were swept away by the huge waves, measuring 0.7m to 1.57m above sea level, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre.
Residents have fled inland amid power outages and jammed phone lines, while students reportedly ransacked a petrol station and convenience store in Pago Pago.
Samoa Observer editorial executive Russell Hunter said law enforcement officers had visited bus stops, urging people not to board buses but to get to higher ground.
“As I was driving to work about an hour and a half ago the roads were full of people both on foot or whatever transport they could get making their way to open, higher ground where they would be safer and have less chance of being hit by falling debris,” he told ABC radio.
A superintendent of the National Park of American Samoa, Mike Reynolds, told a Yellowstone dispatch operator in the US that four tsunami waves, each up to 5m high, reached 0.8 km to 2.5km inland on island of Tutuila, where Pago Pago is situated.
The National Park of American Samoa’s visitor centres have been completely destroyed.
Tsunami warnings have been issued by the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center to surrounding South Pacific nations, including a red alert for Tahiti, which is also expected to be hit with a tsunami.
New Zealand’s tsunami warning has been downgraded to an alert.
Source: Pacific Media Watch
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