Deadly tsunamis strike in Pacific

Tsunamis triggered by a strong quake in the South Pacific have killed at least 65 people in Samoa and more than 20 in American Samoa, say reports.

The Samoan authorities say at least another 145 people have been injured and whole villages destroyed.

American Samoa’s delegate to the US Congress said thousands of people had been left homeless in the territory.

An 8.3-magnitude quake struck at 1748 GMT on Tuesday, generating 15ft (4.5m) waves in some areas of the islands.

The Samoa islands comprise two separate entities – the nation of Samoa and American Samoa, a US territory. The total population is about 250,000.

A general tsunami warning was issued for the wider South Pacific region but was cancelled a few hours later.

The general manager of Samoa’s National Health Service told the BBC that 65 people had died and 145 people were injured.

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

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said he was shocked at the devastation.

“So much has gone. So many people are gone,” he told the AAP news agency.

Floating cars

“Some of the areas are only a few feet above sea level, so you can imagine the devastation,” said Eni Faleomavaega, who represents American Samoa in the US.

“It caused severe damage to property, there are cars floating everywhere.”

Mr Faleomavaega told the BBC the waves had “literally wiped out all the low-lying areas in the Samoan islands”.

He said the tsunami had hit within minutes of the quake, leaving people with no time to escape.

“There would have been no warning system capable of giving adequate warning to the people,” he said.

Samoa’s Deputy PM Misa Telefoni told Australia’s AAP news agency that “the ocean went out within five minutes”.

“With the location and the intensity… I don’t know if anything better could have been done.”

Officials at the Samoa Meteorology Division said many of those who died were killed by a second wave after they went to gather fish that had been washed up after the first.

Sirens reportedly blared out across the Samoan capital, Apia, again late on Tuesday but the warning was thought to be a false alarm.

Dr Lemalu Fiu, at a hospital in Apia, said the number of casualties was expected to rise as people arrived from coastal areas.

Mr Telefoni said there were fears the major tourism areas on the west side of Upolu island had been badly hit.

“We’ve had a pretty grim picture painted of all that coast,” he said.

Australia said one of its citizens was feared dead with six missing. Both Australia and New Zealand are preparing to send emergency aid.

Samoan officials say it could take a week before the full extent of the damage is known.

Beaches gone

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) said the quake struck at a depth of 33km (20 miles), some 190km (120 miles) from Apia in Samoa.

Radio New Zealand quoted Samoan residents as saying that villages were inundated and homes and cars swept away.

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.

Witnesses have reported scenes of destruction.

“It’s horrible… The village is gone and my once beautiful beachfront villa has now been submerged in water,” Josh Nayangu told the BBC after fleeing the area on a small fishing boat with his wife and son.