14 fatalities reported in American Samoa

HONOLULU (Pacific Islands Report, Sept. 29, 2009) – A radio station in American Samoa today reported 14 deaths from a series of five tsunamis that swept the U.S. territory after a 7.9 quake hit about 120 miles west of Pago Pago.

Five people initially confirmed killed in the neighboring nation of Samoa brought the death toll to 29 as news reports continued to roll in.

News agency Reuters reported that waves 15 feet to 20 feet high destroyed the National Park of American Samoa Visitor Center in Pago Pago, the territory’s capital, where park superintendent Mike Reynolds reported unconfirmed deaths. A park service spokesman said Reynolds was completely cut off from the rest of the island.

Radio New Zealand International reached Russell Hunter, a journalist with the Samoa Observer, who said he has been told of deaths.

"There doesn’t seem to be any damage around the capital although we are told that there have been deaths an the other side of the island as a result of the following tsunami, so far we are told three children on the other side of the island."

A resident of a Samoan coastal village says her home has already been destroyed by a Tsunami that followed the quake.

Theresa Falele Dussey has been evacuted to Mount Vaea in the Samoan capital of Apia.

"Our house has already been taken by the tsunami and some of the houses and cars next to our village have already been taken by the tsunami as well. People are just thankful that it’s just the houses and the cars but not themselves, because they’re already gone away from the coastal areas."

A reporter, Jonah Tui Le Tufuga in Apia, says he is starting to hear about damaged houses and villages being wiped out.

"We also received an early report island that the entire Manono village on Manono island has been totally gone under water early on this morning but luckily most of the residents made it up to higher ground before the actual tsunami hit."

The West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center says the tsunami had been observed at Apia, Samoa, and at Pago Pago, in American Samoa.

The waves at Pago Pago were 5.1 feet or1.57 metres above normal sea level.

The Center earlier said a tsunami warning had been issued for American Samoa, and other Pacific countries including Samoa, New Zealand, Niue, Wallis-Futuna, Tokelau, Cook Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Kermadec Islands, Fiji, Kermadec Islands, French Polynesia, Howland-Baker, Jarvis Island, and Palmyra Island.

There is a red alert in French Polynesia as a tsunami is expected to hit shortly.

A two-metre wave is expected to hit the Marquesas islands where people are advised to seek ground at least ten metres above sea level.

A 90 centimetre wave is forecast for the Society island and the Tuamotus.

On the island of Nukunono in Tokelau, preparations are under way in case any big waves arrive after this morning’s earthquake.

The acting faipule or mayor of Nukunono, Mika Perez, says the men are bringing boats to shore and moving families inland.

He says any waves might still be on their way:

"I believe it should take about four hours before we can feel something here in Tokelau. I can see that the tide is receding which is good. When high tide comes at noon it might be a different story."

Mika Perez from Nukunono in Tokelau.

A tsunami watch is in effect for Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Johnston Island, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Wake Island, Pitcairn and Midway Island

The epicenter of the quake was located 190 km southwest of American Samoa.

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