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At Least 100 Killed As Tsunami Hits South Pacific Islands

PTI 30 Sep 2009, 3:17:15 IST

A strong quake triggering tsunami in the South Pacific killed at least 100 people in the Samoa, totally devastating the islands, giving rise to the fears that death toll might exceed one hundred valuable lives.

An 8.3-magnitude quake struck at 1748 GMT, generating 15ft (4.5m) waves in some areas of Samoa and American Samoa. The Samoa islands comprise two separate entities - the nation of Samoa and American Samoa, a US territory - with a total population of about 250,000 people.

Eyewitness said, “"It caused severe damage to property, there are cars floating everywhere." Reports pouring said that they had seen "bodies everywhere" in the main hospital in Lalomanu, on Samoa's main island of Upolu, including at least one child.

South Korea's news agency has reported that three South Koreans were among the dead and one is still missing. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) said the quake struck at a depth of 33km (20 miles) some 190km (120 miles) from Apia. Waves of 5.1ft (1.57m) hit Apia and Pago Pago in American Samoa.

Radio New Zealand quoted Samoan residents as saying that villages were inundated and homes and cars swept away. People fled for higher ground as the waves approached
Graeme Ansell, a New Zealander near Apia, told the radio station the beach village of Sau Sau Beach Fale had been "wiped out".

"There's not a building standing. We've all clambered up hills, and one of our party has a broken leg. There will be people in a great lot of need around here," he said. Local radio stations had been receiving reports of high sea swells hitting coastal areas on the eastern and southern side of Upolu Island. Witnesses have reported scenes of destruction.

"It's horrible... The village is gone and my once beautiful beach front villa has now been submerged in water," Josh Nayangu told a TV channel after fleeing the area on a small fishing boat with his wife and son. Ula Osasa-Mano, who was visiting family on the island, told the water along the Apia seawall was turbulent. "The water was kind of swirling like a spa pool outwards [towards] the rim of the lagoon and in a few seconds the water sunk," Ula Osasa-Mano said.

Mase Akapo, a National Weather Service meteorologist in American Samoa, told a news agency that at least 14 people had been killed in four different villages on the main island of Tutuila. He said another 20 people had died Samoa.

Talutala Mauala, Secretary General of the Red Cross in Samoa, said she was travelling to the country's south coast, where injuries had also been reported. The high waves damaged property and swept cars out to sea. "We won't know the full extent of the damage until we get there and see for ourselves," she said.

President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in American Samoa, enabling federal funding to make available to help victims.