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Dozens feared dead in quake, tsunami

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January 15, 2019 by admin

At least two dozen people are feared dead in Samoa and American Samoa and many more – including Australians – have been hurt, after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the Pacific island nations.

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More than a dozen people are feared dead in Samoa, including at least three children, while at least 14 people were reported killed in American Samoa.

The Red Cross and media reports put the death toll at at least 28, AFP reported, while the ABC said it could be as high as 40.

“We are on our way to the south coast where or people have told us of 11 deaths and we heard on the radio of another three,” said Talutala Mauala, the secretary general of the Red Cross in Samoa.

DFAT hotline for those concerned about relatives: 1300 555 135

“There have also been some injuries. We won’t know the full extent of the damage until we get there and see for ourselves.”

The federal government says a number of Australians have been injured in Samoa.

“The early reports don’t suggest that any of them are very serious, but they are in hospital,” parliamentary secretary for international development assistance Bob McMullan told Sky News.

The 8.3 magnitude quake struck at 6.48am Tuesday local time (0348 Wednesday AEST) midway between the two island nations.

It triggered a tsunami warning for the South Pacific region, from American Samoa to New Zealand, although Australia was excluded. The warning was later cancelled.

Dozens hurt, others missing

Police in Samoa report five people dead while Tupua Tamasese Hospital in the capital of Apia told local radio the tsunami had killed at least three people, two believed to be children – and more than 50 are injured.

Keni Lesa, editor of the Samoa Observer newspaper, says the toll has risen to more than a dozen, with many children among the dead.

“The numbers keep going up but from what I’ve heard there are 14, maybe up to 20 people dead and several children, three and probably more,” Mr Lesa said.

“There are dozens with injuries and even more missing.

“It’s a real mess and we’re very worried at this stage that the numbers are far higher.”

More people are believed to have died in nearby American Samoa, the US National Park Service reports.

“I can confirm there is damage, I can confirm there are deaths and I can confirm there are casualties,” a spokeswoman for the service said by phone.

Thousands left homeless

“I cannot say any more at the moment.”

Officials in American Samoa say at least 14 people were killed there when the tsunami swept ashore.

Mase Akapo, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, says the deaths occurred in four different villages on the main island of Tutuila, with six in the western area of Leone.

There were reports of thousands of people left homeless in American Samoa.

Officials on Samoa said an undetermined number of people had been killed or injured.

A member of the National Disaster Management committee said the casualties occurred in the village of Talamoa, AP reported.

Samoan police have confirmed that villages on the country’s southern coast had been hardest hit.

Entire villages levelled

Worst affected was the island of Upolu, where at least two villages were flattened.

Associated Press reporter Keen Elsa said three or four villages on the popular tourist coast near the southern town of Lalomanu on Samoa’s main island of Upolu had been “wiped out” by waves.

Keni said he had visited the town’s main hospital where “there are bodies everywhere,” including at least one child.

A resident of one of the villages, Theresa Falele Dussey, told Radio New Zealand her house has been destroyed by the tsunami, as were houses and cars in a neighbouring village.

She has been evacuated to Mt Vaea near Apia. “We just thanking God that we’re alive,” she said.

New Zealand tourist Graeme Ansell said the beach village of Faofao on Upolu Island was levelled.

“It was very quick. The whole village has been wiped out,” Ansell told National Radio from a hill near Samoa’s capital, Apia.

“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 ’round here.”

The powerful quake jolted people awake.

‘Trees, houses shaking’

In Apia, families reported shaking that lasted for up to three minutes.

“It was pretty strong; it was long and lasted at least two minutes,” one resident told local radio.

“It’s the strongest I have felt, and we ran outside. You could see all the trees and houses were shaking,” he said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre put the quake’s magnitude at 8.3 while the US Geological Service put it at 8.0.

The US Geological Service said the quake struck 35km below the ocean floor, 190km from American Samoa and 200km from Samoa.

Aftershocks are continuing to jolt the two nations, as well as Tonga’s northern tourist islands of Vava’u.

Tsunami warning cancelled

New Zealand had been expected to be hit by a one-metre high wave about 10am local time (0700 AEST), however the alert has since been cancelled after waves reached just 40cm.

A 1.5-metre tsunami wave swept into the American Samoa capital Pago Pago shortly after the earthquake, sending sea water surging inland about 100 metres before receding, leaving some cars stuck in mud.

Electricity outages were reported and telephone lines were jammed.

In Fagatogo, water reached the waterfront town’s meeting field and covered portions of the main highway, which also was plagued by rock slides.

Mr McMullan said while a number of Australians had been injured it appeared to be not as bad as it may have been.

“My advice is that the Australians are stable,” he said.

“All of them have been able to contact their own families directly and none of them have said to the high commission they need any special extra assistance.”


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