Scores dead in tsunami in Pacific islands

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

A series of tsunamis smashed into the Pacific island nations of American and Western Samoa killing possibly more than 100 people, some washed out to sea, destroying villages and injuring hundreds, officials said today.





US President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in American Samoa, a US territory, and ordered federal aid to help recovery efforts, with a US C-130 military transport aircraft due to leave Honolulu for the tiny South Pacific islands.



Television images showed homes ripped apart, cars submerged in the sea or lodged in trees and large fishing boats hurled ashore by the waves generated by a 8.0 magnitude quake southwest of American Samoa.



Western Samoa disaster officials said at least 47 people were killed, but the toll may reach 100 as rescuers search for bodies buried under sand in flattened villages along the southern shore of the island of Upolu.



Twenty villages on Upolu's south side were reportedly destroyed, including Lepa, the home of Samoa's prime minister. The area is also the main tourist area, and the waves destroyed some resorts.



"Thankfully the alarm sounded on the radio and gave people time to climb to higher ground. But not everyone escaped," said Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, adding two children en route to hospital for flu treatment were swept away.



"Their car was just taken away. I'm so shocked, so saddened by all the loss," he told reporters on a flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Apia.



The Australian government said one Australian tourist was dead and six others missing. "It does look like there will be substantial loss of life in Samoa," said Australia's Aid Minister Bob McMullan.



In neighbouring American Samoa at least 24 people were killed and 50 injured, American Samoa Governor Togiola Tulafono said from Hawaii, with the southern portion of the main Tutuila island "devastated". The death toll there may also rise, said officials.



Director of American Samoa's homeland security Mike Sala said the waves that hit Pago Pago village were about 6 metres high.



"Some buildings were completely demolished by the waves, you know, there's no buildings anymore except the foundation," Sala told Radio New Zealand.



New Zealand said there were also serious concerns about the neighbouring island nation of Tonga after a 4-metre (13-foot) wave hit its northern coast. Tongan officials said they feared as many as 10 people had been killed.



The two Samoas and Tonga have a combined population of around 400,000 people.







A Pacific-wide tsunami warning was issued after an 8.0 magnitude undersea quake off American Samoa, with small tsunamis reaching New Zealand, Hawaii and Japan.



An Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December 2004, which killed about 230,000 people across 11 countries, is the worst on record.



Shortly after local radio tsunami warnings were issued in American and Western Samoa, waves started crashing into the capital of American Samoa, Pago Pago, and villages and resorts on the southern coasts, witnesses said.



"It's believed as of now, there could be a number close to 100 deaths," said Ausegalia Mulipola, assistant chief executive of Western Samoa's disaster management office.



"They are still continuing the searches for any missing bodies in the area," Mulipola told Reuters, adding the southern side of the country's main island Upolu was the worst hit.



"Some areas have been flattened and the tsunami brought a lot of sand onshore, so there have been reports the sand has covered some of the bodies," Mulipola said. "So we need specialised machines to search for bodies that are buried under the sand."



The owner of the Samoan resort Sea Breeze on the southside of Upolu said she and her husband were almost washed away when the waves destroyed their resort.



"The second wave hit and came up through the floor, pushed out the back door and threw us outside," Wendy Booth told Fairfax Radio Network in Australia.



Samoa's Hotel Association chief executive Nynette Sass said many people fleeing the waves were washed out to sea.



"On the seaside there's quite a few families ... with all their children gone, washed out. Some tried to escape in cars, and the waves got the cars. It's really heartbreaking," Sass told Radio New Zealand.



Sass said people who escaped with only the clothes on their backs were now sheltering in makeshift camps on higher ground.



Red Cross teams had mobilised more than 100 emergency workers who were collecting coconuts to help meet early food and water needs, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Jeremy Clarkson
people
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own