September 30, 2009

Tsunami hits America Samoa

UNITED STATES - The America Samoa is a territory of the United States in the south west Pacific ocean, population 65,000.

A massive tsunami unleashed by a powerful 8.3 earthquake flattened Samoan villages and swept cars and people out to sea, killing at least 111 and leaving dozens missing today. The death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are being found.

The tsunami's four big waves were approx. 6 meters high and also hit other Samoan islands in the region. Smaller tsunami waves were seen as far away as islands belonging to Japan. The tsunami waters reached approx. a mile inland on the island of Tutuila.

In the capitol of Pago Pago the streets and fields were filled with debris, overturned cars and several boats. Cleanup is expected to last for weeks.

President Obama has declared a major disaster for American Samoa and said relief effort is on the way. Obama said in a statement early today that he and his wife, Michelle "will keep those who have lost so much in our thoughts and prayers."

Joey Cummings of local radio station 93KHJ says that he and his co-workers watched from a balcony as a 15-foot tsunami wave struck and "the air was filled with screams."

He and his colleagues shouted for people to run uphill "but they just ran down the street away from the wave rather than make a sharp left and up the steep mountain just feet away."

In the aftermath there was a combination of searching for trapped/injured survivors and looting local stores. Bodies were stacked in the back of pickup trucks.

Three Australians and one Brit are among the death toll.

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