October 1, 2009 in Nation/World

Aid on the way to Samoa islands; at least 120 dead

Rod Mcguirk And Audrey Mcavoy Associated Press
Bruce Leiataua photo

This photo taken Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009, shows the fishing boat “Gogosina” on Beach Road in Pago Pago, American Samoa. A magnitude 8.0 quake struck early Tuesday morning, and sent giant waves crashing down on the islands. “Gogosina” is the Samoan word for the seabird also known as a tern. (AP Photo/Bruce Leiataua)
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

At a glance

Developments related to the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the Samoas:

Deaths: The death toll increased to at least 120, including 83 in Samoa, 30 in American Samoa and in seven in nearby Tonga.

The search: Police and disaster crews fanned out across the islands to search for victims.

Fallout: Power was expected to be out in some areas of American Samoa for up to a month; officials said some 2,200 people were in seven shelters across the island.

Health: An official in Samoa said that a hospital needs nurses, doctors, surgeons and blood to treat the increasing numbers of casualties with broken bones and cuts.

Relief: A Navy frigate is on its way to American Samoa with supplies, and two huge Air Force cargo planes also will depart for the island.

On the Web: View a slideshow of tsunami damage in the South Pacific at spokesman.com/


APIA, Samoa – Police searched a ghastly landscape of mud-strewn streets, pulverized homes and bodies scattered in a swamp Wednesday as dazed survivors emerged from the muck and mire of an earthquake and tsunami that killed at least 120 in the South Pacific.

Military transports flew medical personnel, food, water and medicine to Samoa and American Samoa, both devastated by a tsunami triggered by an undersea earthquake. A cargo plane from New Zealand brought in a temporary morgue and a body identification team.

Officials expect the death toll to rise as more areas are searched. Among the hardest hit areas was the southeast coast of Samoa, with authorities reporting that several tourist resorts were wiped out.

Survivors fled to higher ground on the islands after the magnitude 8.0 quake struck at 6:48 a.m. local time. The residents then were engulfed by four tsunami waves 15 to 20 feet high that reached up to a mile inland.

The waves splintered houses and left cars and boats – many battered and upside down – scattered about the coastline. Debris as small as a spoon and as large as a piece of masonry weighing several tons was strewn in the mud.

Survivors told harrowing tales of encountering the deadly tsunami.

“I was scared. I was shocked,” said Didi Afuafi, 28, who was on a bus when the giant waves came ashore on American Samoa. “All the people on the bus were screaming, crying and trying to call their homes. We couldn’t get on cell phones. The phones just died on us. It was just crazy.”

The quake was centered about 120 miles south of the islands of Samoa, which has about 220,000 people, and American Samoa, a U.S. territory of 65,000.

While the earthquake and tsunami were big, they were not as large as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 230,000 in a dozen countries across Asia.

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