Nearly 100 people have been killed by the Samoan tsunami that swept across the Southeast Pacific Ocean Tuesday afternoon and on into the evening. Samoa and American Samoa were hard hit (as is made evident by by the tsunami caused by an earthquake that was recorded in the region east of Tonga. The Times Online reported that the 8.0 magnitude earthquake created several tsunamis with waves reaching as high as 15 feet above normal. Tsunami waves inundated Samoa, American Samoa, and other small islands before spreading out toward other shores. Videos of the destruction have been posted on YouTube.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a tsunami warning for New Zealand and other South Pacific islands soon after the Samoan earthquake was detected. Hawaii was placed under a tsunami watch until Tuesday evening. The west coast states of California, Oregon, and Washington were placed on tsunami advisory, as was Alaska. By the time the tsunami reached California, however, waves were barely a foot above normal.
But in the Samoan group of islands, the tsunami not only hit with big, powerful waves, it also left death and destruction in its wake (as can be seen in several videos).
The British Foreign Office reported that a two-year old was missing from Samoa and was believed to have been on the beach when the Samoan tsunami struck. President Barack Obama declared American Samoa, which is an American territory, a major disaster. The declaration allows federal aid and funds to flow more freely to the stricken area. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent teams to the region a well.
One eyewitness recalls watching the waterline recede back toward the horizon about 20 minutes before the big waves came crashing in. Many will recall the thousands of similar stories after the 2004 Christmas Tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean, killing over 155,000 people. That particular tsunami was caused by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra.
A resident of Sau Sau Beach Fale, Samoa, said that the tsunami took his entire village and left not one building standing. That story was repeated numerous times in Sri Lanka and Indonesia after the 2004 Christmas Tsunami, where hundreds of thousands were displaced without villages and towns to which they could return.
The island of Tonga, which was just west of the earthquake epicenter, was hit by 13-foot waves and suffered coastal damage.
Fox News reported that on American Samoa, four tsunami waves at least 15 feet high crashed ashore and washed inland for about a mile. At least 30 of the dead were reported to have been killed on American Samoa.
The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States have already begun planning relief measures. In the aftermath of the 2004 Christmas Tsunami, over $7 billion was contributed to the stricken areas, much of it coming through charitable organizations and individual donations.
American Samoan earthquake tsunami video via YouTube.
Samoan tsunami video via Sky News.