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Japan 7.4 seabed quake sparks tsunami scare, evacuations

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 4:31 am

TOKYO, Dec 22, 2010 (AFP) – Scores of villagers on a remote Japanese island chain in the Pacific scrambled for higher ground after a major 7.4-magnitude offshore quake early Wednesday sparked a tsunami alert.

The seabed tremor struck at 2:19 am local time (1719 GMT Tuesday), jolting people out of bed as loudspeakers blared across the islands and authorities warned of the risk of a two-metre (six-foot) high local tsunami.

The tsunami alert was later downgraded and all warnings were lifted five hours after the quake hit near the Ogasawara islands, some 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) south of Tokyo. No injuries or damage were reported.

But about 120 people temporarily evacuated to higher ground on Chichi-shima island and some 50 people on Haha-shima island, Koji Watanabe, a village official on Chichi-shima, said overnight.

“It was the biggest earthquake I have ever felt,” said Masae Nagai, a hotel owner on Chichi-shima, part of the remote archipelago also called the Bonin islands, which has a population of about 2,300.

“We were awakened by the quake. It was scary,” she told AFP by telephone around sunrise, but she added that the walls of her hotel were not cracked and that “things have returned to normal”.

Local authorities on the Ogasawara islands, near Iwo Jima, said they had set up five shelters for local residents but had closed them before sunrise as there were no reports of injuries or property damage.

“The jolts were relatively stronger than those we have felt in the past,” Kenichi Mochida, another Chichi-shima official, told AFP.

“But there was no panic as people acted in an orderly manner,” Mochida said. “Residents who were in the shelters have already returned home.”

The quake hit at a shallow depth of 14 kilometres, 153 kilometres (95 miles) east of Chichi-shima, and was followed by a series of aftershocks measuring between 5.3 and 5.6 which continued into the morning.

About three hours after the quake, a 60 centimetre (two feet) wave was monitored 700 kilometres away at Hachijo-jima, part of the Izu island chain that runs south of Tokyo, the meteorological agency said.

Authorities warned of the risk of further aftershocks.

“We would like people to remain on full alert as subsequent waves could be higher than the first ones,” Hirofumi Yokoyama, a meteorological agency official in charge of tsunami observation, told a Tokyo news conference.

The Ogasawara chain, made up of more than 30 subtropical and tropical islets some 240 kilometres north of Iwo Jima, were put under the control of the United States after World War II, and returned to Japan in 1968.

The remote islands have preserved their unique biological habitats and have been dubbed the “Galapagos of the Orient”.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said after sounding the initial alert there was no threat of a destructive widespread tsunami and no nearby islands were thought to be in the tsunami danger zone.

But it warned in a bulletin shortly after the quake: “Earthquakes of this size sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts located within 100 kilometres of the earthquake epicentre.

“Authorities in the region of the epicentre should be aware of this possibility and take appropriate action.”

Around 20 percent of the world’s most powerful earthquakes strike Japan, which sits on the “Ring of Fire” surrounding the Pacific Ocean.

In 1995 a magnitude-7.2 quake in the port city of Kobe killed 6,400 people.

But high building standards, regular drills and a sophisticated tsunami warning system mean that casualties are often minimal.

Source: SGGP

Weather clears for Indonesia tsunami aid as toll climbs

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2010 at 11:11 am

Scores found alive in Indonesia tsunami zone

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2010 at 10:10 am

SOUTH PAGAI, Indonesia, Oct 30, 2010 (AFP) – Scores of people feared dead in Indonesia’s tsunami disaster zone were found alive Saturday as rescue workers spread out to remote island communities five days after the killer wave.

The discovery came as Indonesia struggled with disaster on two fronts following another powerful eruption of the archipelago’s most active volcano, which spread chaos and ash over a vast area of central Java.

Three-week-old tsunami survivor Indonesian baby is attended by a nurse at a hospital in Sikakap in North Pagai island, one of the Mentawai islands on October 30, 2010. AFP

On the tsunami-hit Mentawai island chain off the coast of Sumatra, rescue workers battling rough seas and monsoon rain found 135 people hiding on high ground, too scared of another wave to return to their shattered villages.

“We’re so grateful that we’ve found many of the missing people — we’d been working very hard to find them,” disaster management official Joskamatir said.

Officials had held little hope of finding many of the missing after flights over the area earlier in the week revealed dozens of unclaimed bodies strewn across beaches and wedged in rubble.

Many of the dead were also believed to have been sucked out to sea as the killer wave receded.

The number of missing was almost halved from 298 to 163 following Saturday’s discovery, while the death count remained at 413, according to an official tally.

Rescue workers were reaching some of the isolated coastal villages crushed by the three-metre (10-foot) wall of water which was triggered on Monday by a 7.7-magnitude earthquake, but monsoon weather was slowing the relief effort.

“Before help came I survived by eating whatever we could find, such as taro,” said Theopilus, 42, a farmer on the worst-hit island of South Pagai.

“We’re in dire need of more food, tents and blankets. I feel really cold at night as it rains all the time.”

In central Java, 1,300 kilometres (810 miles) to the southeast, terrified residents fled in panic when Mount Merapi erupted again just after midnight, fearing a repeat of explosions on Tuesday that claimed at least 36 lives.

No one was killed in the latest eruption, but hospital staff reported that two people had died in the chaotic rush to escape.

“I was sleeping on the veranda when loud booms like thunder woke me up,” local resident Kris Budianto, 51, told AFP. He suffered a broken arm and facial wounds when he crashed his motorbike in the melee.

Volcanic ash rained down on the Central Java provincial capital of Yogyakarta 26 kilometres away from the crater, shutting the airport for over an hour.

Government volcanologist Subandrio said more eruptions were likely and warned about 50,000 people who have been evacuated from the danger zone not to tempt fate by going home too soon.

“We will even have to evaluate whether we need to widen the exclusion zone because we should not downplay the threat — Mount Merapi is extremely dangerous,” he said.

Many displaced people return to the slopes of 2,914-metre Merapi, a sacred landmark in Javanese tradition whose name means “Mountain of Fire”, to tend to their precious livestock during the day.

On North Pagai, dazed and hungry survivors of Monday night’s tsunami were still roaming between devastated villages looking for food and lost loved ones.

A baby was born in a crammed medical clinic as a man died of his wounds just a few beds away.

Another ship bearing badly need supplies such as tents, medicine and food arrived at Sikakap on the protected side of North Pagai island, while helicopters dropped aid packages to cut-off villages.

Joskamatir said only five percent of the aid piling up at Sikakap had been delivered to those in need, citing bad weather and the “limited availability of transportation” such as boats and helicopters.

“There are three helicopters here already but we still need more speedboats. We need about 50 speedboats,” he said.

Australia and the United States have pledged aid worth a total of three million dollars while the European Commission released 1.5 million euros (two million dollars) for victims of both disasters.

Indonesia straddles a region known as the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, with scores of active volcanoes and major tectonic fault lines. Almost 170,000 Indonesians were killed in the 2004 Asian tsunami.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited tsunami survivors on Thursday and said the “only long-term solution” was for people to move away from the most vulnerable coastal areas.

Mentawai fisherman Hari, 24, agreed.

“I plan to leave my village. I don’t want to live here anymore. I’m traumatised,” he said.

Source: SGGP

Indonesia battles to aid tsunami survivors

In Uncategorized on October 29, 2010 at 9:40 am

A woman searches for her belongings in a collapsed house in Taparaboat village in the Mentawai islands, West Sumatra, on October 28, 2010. AFP

NORTH PAGAI, Indonesia (AFP) – Indonesia battled to deliver aid to remote islands where a tsunami has killed over 400 people, as bodies lay strewn on beaches and buried in debris days after the wave hit.

Disaster response officials believe the final death toll from the huge wave that hit the Mentawai island chain off the west coast of Sumatra Monday could pass 600, with many of the victims sucked out to sea as the tsunami receded.

Almost 13,000 people are living in makeshift camps on the islands after their homes were wiped out in the wave, which was triggered by a powerful 7.7 magnitude earthquake.

Elsewhere in the disaster-prone archipelago, the nation’s most active volcano, Mount Merapi, was spewing lava and ash, threatening residents who may have returned to their homes after an eruption on Tuesday killed 34 people.

“It shot heat clouds at 6:10 am as far as 3.5 kilometres (over two miles) down its southeastern slopes and followed this with ash rain,” volcanologist Heru Suparwoko told AFP.

The clouds were “definitely dangerous” for people who had refused to obey orders to evacuate the danger zone on the island of Java or who had returned to tend to their livestock and property, he added.

Some 50,000 people have fled to temporary shelters but many are returning to their fields on the volcano during the day, despite the threat of another deadly eruption.

On the Mentawais, a legendary destination for foreign surfers but an otherwise poor and neglected part of Indonesia, bodies were being found buried on beaches and even stuck in trees.

The latest official death toll stood at 408, with 303 still listed as missing. Officials said as many as 200 of the missing were not expected to be found alive.

“When we flew over the area yesterday (Wednesday) we saw many bodies. Heads and legs were sticking out of the sand, some of them were in the trees,” disaster official Ade Edward said Thursday.

Indonesia initially refused offers of foreign aid but Australia announced that Jakarta had accepted about one million US dollars worth of assistance for both disasters.

The European Commission released 1.5 million euros (two million dollars) in aid and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the United Nations stood ready to assist in any way.

“Indonesia is currently addressing a multitude of emergencies, whose cumulative impact is putting local capacity under severe strain,” European aid chief Kristalina Georgieva said.

The United States and several Asian countries have also offered help.

Bad weather has hampered efforts to ferry aid such as tents, medicine, food and water to the islands by boat from the nearest port of Padang, which is more than half a day away even in the best conditions.

Troops and warships have been dispatched to the region but more helicopters and boats are needed to ferry aid to the most isolated communities, some of which lack roads and wireless communications.

“Our staff have been waiting in Padang since Monday night to reach the remote area. They are now still in Padang,” World Vision emergency response director Jimmy Nadapdap said.

Dave Jenkins of independent health agency Surfaid International, which is based in the Mentawais, said: “Bad weather is forecast and a severely challenging situation has been made a lot worse.”

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited the area Thursday and told survivors the government was doing everything it could to help them.

Officials have batted away questions about why an expensive warning system — established after the 2004 Asian tsunami killed almost 170,000 people on Sumatra and nearby islands — failed to alert people on the Mentawais.

Survivors said the only warning they received was the “roaring” sound of the wave as it sped towards them shortly before 10:00 pm, although an official tsunami alert had been issued in Jakarta.

An official responsible for the warnings blamed local authorities on the Mentawais for failing to pass on the alert, telling reporters: “We don’t feel there was any mistake.”

The Indonesian archipelago is studded with scores of active volcanoes and stretches from the Pacific to the Indian oceans, spanning several tectonic plates meeting on a so-called “ring of fire”.

According to the US Geological Survey, Monday’s earthquake was “the latest in a sequence of large ruptures along the Sunda megathrust” including the 2004 quake.

Source: SGGP

Indonesia tsunami death toll tops 300

In Uncategorized on October 28, 2010 at 7:11 am

 The death toll from a tsunami which pummelled remote Indonesian islands soared to 311 on Thursday as questions mounted over whether an elaborate warning system had failed.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was heading to the disaster zone, where fears were growing for hundreds still missing after a huge wave triggered by a powerful earthquake Monday hit the Mentawais off the west coast of Sumatra.

Hundreds of kilometres (miles) away, a mass funeral is being held for those killed when the nation’s most active volcano erupted, the second natural disaster to strike Indonesia in as many days.

Disaster response officials said bodies were being found on beaches and coastal areas in the Mentawai island chain, which took the full force of the tsunami as it washed away entire villages.

“Three hundred and eleven people were killed and 379 are still missing,” West Sumatra disaster management official Agus Prayitno said.

Indonesian officials pray over recovered bodies of tsunami victims in North Pagai island, one of the Mentawai islands, on October 27, 2010

A ship bearing aid including food, water, medical supplies as well as body bags arrived Thursday at Sikakap, on North Pagai island, one of the two worst-hit islands in the Mentawai group.

An AFP photographer on board said hundreds of villagers were being treated at a medical clinic, many requiring stitches to open cuts suffered as they were tossed around in the surging sea.

Survivors said they had almost no warning that the three-metre (10-foot) wall of water was bearing down on them, despite the laying of a sophisticated network of alarm buoys off the Sumatran coast.

As the magnitude of the disaster became clear, many were asking whether the expensive warning system — established after the 2004 Asian tsunami which killed at least 168,000 people in Indonesia alone — had failed.

An official tsunami warning was issued after the 7.7-magnitude quake but it either came too late or did not reach the communities in most danger.

One survivor, 32-year-old farmer Borinte, said the wave slammed into his community on North Pagai island only 10 minutes after residents had felt the quake.

“About 10 minutes after the quake we heard a loud, thunderous sound. We went outside and saw the wave coming. We tried to run away to higher ground but the wave was much quicker than us,” he told AFP on Wednesday.

He said he managed to stay alive by clasping to a piece of wood. His wife and three children were killed.

Medical personnel were arriving on helicopters but boats bearing aid have been hampered by bad weather around the islands, which are about half a day’s ferry ride away from the port of Padang on Sumatra.

Troops and naval personnel had been dispatched to the area. Indonesian western fleet commander Marsetio said at least five warships were on their way.

The United States and several of Indonesia’s neighbours have pledged help for a nation which often finds itself battling calamity, although Jakarta said it did not see a need for foreign assistance.

On the central island of Java, rescuers have pulled the bodies of at least 32 people from a tomb of fine grey ash after Mount Merapi erupted on Tuesday, including the elderly spiritual gatekeeper of the “Mountain of Fire”.

Officials said more than 50,000 people had fled to cramped temporary shelters around the nearby city of Yogyakarta, but there were fears for the fate of thousands more who had refused to budge.

The slopes of the mountain were an eerie wasteland on Thursday, with houses burnt and flattened, trees scorched and stripped of leaves and the stench of rotting bodies filling the air, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

Soaring above the rice paddies of central Java, the 2,914-metre (9,616-foot) Mount Merapi is the most active of the 69 volcanoes with histories of eruptions in Indonesia. It last erupted in June 2006, killing two people.

Indonesia straddles a region where the meeting of continental plates causes high seismic activity. It has the world’s largest number of active volcanoes and is shaken by thousands of earthquakes every year.

A 7.6-magnitude earthquake last year in Padang killed about 1,100 people, while the 2004 Asian tsunami — triggered by a 9.3-magnitude quake along the same faultline — killed at least 168,000 people in Indonesia alone.

Source: SGGP

Survivor recalls terrifying power of Indonesian tsunami

In Uncategorized on October 27, 2010 at 9:10 am

PADANG, Indonesia, Oct 27, 2010 (AFP) – A wall of water triggered by an earthquake off Indonesia’s west coast smashed boats and houses like they were made of matchsticks and swept half a kilometer inland, survivors said.

At least 200 homes in 10 villages and a resort popular with surfers were in ruins after the tsunami struck the Mentawai group of islands off the west coast of Sumatra late on Monday.

Indonesian people displaced by the eruption of Mount Merapi queue for food in Sleman on October 27, 2010. AFP

More than 150 people were killed and 400 people remain missing, according to officials.

Survivors said Wednesday that they had no warning that a tsunami was on its way after the 7.7-magnitude quake struck offshore at 9:42 pm (1442 GMT) on Monday.

Borinte, 32, a farmer from Detumonga village on the coast of North Pagai island, said he managed to stay alive by clasping to a piece of wood. His wife and three children were killed.

“About 10 minutes after the quake we heard a loud, thunderous sound. We went outside and saw the wave coming. We tried to run away to higher ground but the wave was much quicker than us,” he told AFP.

“Our house, which is about 50 metres (yards) from the sea, was destroyed. Most houses in the village were destroyed. My wife and three children died as they were swept away. Their bodies were found the next day,” he said.

“I’m so sorry that I couldn’t save my wife and children as I panicked and didn’t know what to do. I was swept away as well but I managed to survive by holding onto a wooden plank.”

West Sumatra disaster management head Harmensyah said: “When the tsunami struck there were dozens of fishermen out at sea. Their bodies were found the next morning floating on the water or cast ashore on the beach.”

Dr. Dave Jenkins, the founder of SurfAid International, a non-profit community health organisation which operates on the islands, said the destruction was likely to be worse than initially reported.

“We have staff in a lot of villages and we have boats out there. There’s been a lot of more destruction and fatalities and people missing than has been reported, but we don’t know the (latest) official figures,” he told AFP.

“These islands are extremely remote. There are no roads and there are no phones in a lot of places,” he said, adding that the government was not well equipped to respond to the disaster.

A group of Australians had a lucky escape when the wave surged into Macaronis Bay near a well-known tourist resort and threw them off their charter boat, which smashed into another boat and caught fire.

“The boats were smashed by the wave and one was set on fire and destroyed. Everyone was washed into the sea and clung onto debris from the resort,” Jenkins said.

He said the tourists were washed inland and found their way back to the beach an hour or so later.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono left early from a summit of Southeast Asian leaders in Hanoi and was on his way to the islands to “feel the pain and burden of the victims”, a spokesman said.

“President Yudhoyono is very concerned, psychologically and morally, about the situation in West Sumatra and also in Merapi,” spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said.

Mount Merapi, a volcano in central Java island, erupted less than 24 hours after the Mentawai earthquake, killing at least 29 people, according to the latest official toll.

Source: SGGP

137 dead as Indonesia hit by tsunami, volcano

In Uncategorized on October 27, 2010 at 5:34 am

JAKARTA (AFP) – At least 112 people were killed and hundreds remained missing in Indonesia after a tsunami triggered by a powerful earthquake smashed into a remote island chain, washing away entire villages.

Another 25 people have been killed after the eruption of the country’s most active volcano, as the force of nature was unleashed in an area known as the Pacific “Ring of Fire”.

Rescue officials evacuate a victim of the Merapi volcano at Kinahrejo village on October 26, 2010. AFP

The 7.7-magnitude quake struck late Monday in the Mentawai Islands off Sumatra generating waves as high as three metres (10 feet) that one official said had swept away 10 villages in one of the world’s top surfing spots.

“At least 112 people were killed and 502 people have gone missing,” West Sumatra disaster management head Harmensyah said Wednesday.

Less than 24 hours after the tsunami struck, Mount Merapi erupted on the island of Java, causing thousands to flee in panic as it spewed searing clouds of ash and claiming the lives of at least 25 people, including a baby.

“We heard three explosions around 6 pm (1100 GMT) spewing volcanic material as high as 1.5 kilometres (one mile) and sending heat clouds down the slopes,” government volcanologist Surono told AFP.

Indonesia sits on a “ring of fire”, where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity. The archipelago is frequently struck by powerful earthquakes and has the world’s largest number of active volcanoes.

A 7.6-magnitude earthquake in September last year in Padang killed about 1,100 people while the 2004 Asian tsunami — triggered by a 9.3-magnitude quake off Sumatra — killed at least 168,000 people in Indonesia alone.

Health Ministry Crisis Centre head Mudjiharto said the Mentawai waves reached up to three metres high and waters swept as far as 600 metres inland on South Pagai island, the hardest hit.

Disaster Management Agency spokesman Agolo Suparto said 10 villages had been swept away.

Medical personnel were on their way to the worst-hit areas in helicopters but rescue efforts had been hampered by disruption to communications in the remote islands, which are about half a day’s ferry ride away from Padang.

Disaster Management Agency aid coordinator Wisnu Wijaya told AFP that rescue teams from the capital Jakarta would join forces with local teams to evacuate bodies and deliver food aid, medicines, tents and blankets.

A group of Australian tourists reported that their boat with 15 people aboard was destroyed by a “wall of white water” crashing into a bay after the undersea quake and said some had to cling to trees to survive.

Rick Hallet, an Australian who operates a boat-chartering business in Sumatra, said a huge wave picked up another boat in the bay which smashed into his vessel, triggering an explosion and fireball.

“The bay we were in was several hundred metres across and the wall of white water was from one side to the other, it was quite scary,” he told Fairfax Radio Network.

Another group of nine Australian surfers was alive and well after going missing following the quake and tsunami, officials said Wednesday.

Australia’s foreign department said the nine on board the Southern Cross tour boat had lost mobile signal but contacted relatives late Tuesday, adding that they were not even aware of the tsunami pummelling the western islands.

US President Barack Obama, who lived in Indonesia as a boy and is due to return there on an Asian tour next month, pledged US help.

“(First Lady) Michelle and I are deeply saddened by the loss of life, injuries, and damage that have occurred as a result of the recent earthquake and tsunami in West Sumatra,” he said.

“As a friend of Indonesia, the United States stands ready to help in any way.”

Hundreds of kilometres away from the tsunami disaster zone, thousands of people fled in panic after the eruption of Mount Merapi, some covered in white ash, as officials with loudhailers tried to help them escape the area.

Search and rescue official Taufiq from Yogyakarta city told reporters that 12 bodies had been found in and around the house of the spiritual “gatekeeper” of the mountain.

“There are likely to be more victims as the terrain is difficult, roads are damaged and trees uprooted, it’s dark and the condition of the volcano is still unstable,” he said late Tuesday.

A local hospital doctor also said a baby had died from inhaling volcanic material.

The toll was updated to 25 on Wednesday morning.

Authorities had put an area 10 kilometres around the crater of Mount Merapi on red alert Monday, ordering 19,000 people to flee.

Volcanologist Surono said the latest activity at the 2,914-metre (9,616-foot) Merapi, was bigger than an eruption in 2006, which killed two people.

Its deadliest eruption occurred in 1930 when more than 1,300 people were killed. Heat clouds from another eruption in 1994 killed more than 60 people.

Source: SGGP

Vietnam needs tsunami preparation measures

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2010 at 10:20 am

Vietnam needs tsunami preparation measures

QĐND – Wednesday, June 30, 2010, 20:58 (GMT+7)

Scientists from the Institute of Global Physics on June 29 warned that Vietnam could probably be hit by a tsunami, thus the country needs to prepare itself for emergency scenarios.

Speaking at an online nationwide conference about tsunami and earthquake prevention measures, Nguyen Hong Phuong, deputy director of the Institute’s Tsunami Warning and Earthquake Information Centre, said that so far, Vietnam had not any tsunami observation and measurement system created.

The institute has created 25 scenarios to prepare for tsunamis in Vietnam . The scenarios address regions that are prone to tsunamis, and take into consideration that risks and damage that can be caused by this natural calamity, Phuong said.

The institute also defined areas that are potentially at risk to experience an earthquake, which include the north-western mountainous provinces, the Ca river-valley in the central province of Nghe An and the offshore area in the south of the country, he said.

Vietnam had set up 24 earthquake observation centres nationwide, Phuong added.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat said that to limit damage and ensure sustainable development and socio-economic planning, provinces that could potentially hit by tsunamis must be prepared for such events.

According to statistics, since 1914, Vietnam has been hit by 1,650 earthquakes, of which 95 percent occurred in Dien Bien Province.

Source: VNA

Source: QDND

At least 155 dead in Samoa tsunami: officials

In World on October 2, 2009 at 6:42 am

A tsunami that wiped out entire villages in Samoa has killed at least 155 people in the South Pacific, officials said Thursday, adding the toll could rise to as much as 190.

Some 115 people have been confirmed killed in Samoa, which was worst hit by the disaster, according to Guretti Wulf of the Samoa Red Cross. Another 31 are dead in nearby American Samoa and nine were killed in Tonga, officials said.

“There’s still (people) missing,” she told AFP. “They are still looking, searching for them. I don’t think anybody’s going to be found alive at this point.” The official toll stood at 110 on Wednesday.

Rescuers are seen wading through water looking for bodies after a devastating tsunami hit the south coast of Samoa.

But Samoan disaster officials said they feared that up to 150 people may have died, a toll that would bring the total number of dead in the region to 190.

The toll is expected to rise as more bodies are being recovered and some dead were buried before they could be counted, an official told AFP.Related article: Relief efforts

“The deaths are probably between 120 and 150 in reality, it’s definitely more than the official toll,” a senior figure in the disaster management office told AFP on condition on anonymity.

“We know there will be more because recovery operations are still bringing in bodies and some villagers have buried their relatives without recording their deaths at the hospital,” he said.

An 8.0 earthquake churned up walls of water measuring between three and 7.5 metres (10 and 25 feet) that thundered down on small coastal settlements on Tuesday, smashing them to bits.

Officials in American Samoa, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Samoa, said 31 had been killed in the remote US outpost, but that a 12-year-old Korean girl was missing following the disaster.

In Tonga, a government spokesman said two more people had been confirmed dead after the tsunami hit its small northern island of Niuatoputapu, bringing the total number of deaths there to nine.

“There are nine people confirmed dead,” he told AFP. “We are confident that everyone has been accounted for,” he added.

More than half of homes on the island, which has a population of about 950, were damaged by the waves with many washed away, he said.

A powerful 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck in seas off Tonga and the Samoan islands on Friday but no immediate tsunami alert was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii and Australian experts said the tremor was likely too small to create another deadly wave.

“I don’t think there is a particular tsunami danger from that earthquake,” Geoscience Australia seismologist Phil Cummins told AFP.

The US Geological Survey said the earthquake, at a shallow depth of just 10 kilometres (six miles), struck 242 kilometres (151 miles) off Tonga‘s northwest island of Neiafu.

The epicentre was 377 kilometres from American Samoa capital Pago Pago, which was hard-hit by this week’s 8.0 earthquake and tsunami.

Dozens of aftershocks have rocked the region since giant waves smashed the South Pacific islands on Wednesday.

Source: SGGP

Dozens dead as Samoa quake, tsunami flattens villages

In World on September 30, 2009 at 4:22 pm

APIA, Sept 30, 2009 (AFP) – A huge earthquake churned up a giant tsunami that devastated the Samoa islands on Tuesday, killing at least 53 people as it tore through resorts and villages.

Buildings were toppled and thousands of people fled to higher ground after the offshore 8.0-magnitude quake struck in the early morning, followed by giant waves which swept cars out to sea.

Rahmat Triyono (R), head of the Indonesian tsunami early warning division, checks the status of 5.8 scale earthquake that hit Talaud island in Indonesia, which occured after a strong earthquake triggered a tsunami in the islands of Samoa, in Jakarta on September 30 (AFP photo)

Eyewitnesses reported walls of water of between three and nine metres (30 feet) pounding the shore, wiping out villages and shattering holiday resorts.

At least 22 were dead in American Samoa and 31 in Samoa with scores more missing feared killed, and unconfirmed reports of further deaths in nearby Tonga.

US President Barack Obama called the incident a “major disaster”, while Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said he was “shocked beyond belief”.

“So much has gone. So many people are gone,” he told the Australian news agency AAP. “I’m so shocked, so saddened by all the loss.”

Deputy prime minister Misa Telefoni said Samoa’s tourism hotspot was “devastated” by the tsunami which left residents and holidaymakers with little time to flee.

“We’ve heard that most of the resorts are totally devastated on that side of the island. We’ve had a pretty grim picture painted of all that coast,” he said.

Two of the country’s most popular resorts, Sinalei Reef Resort and Coconuts Beach Resort, off the west coast of the main island of Upolu, had been hit hard, he told the Australian Associated Press.

There was widespread destruction in Samoa with possibly thousands of people left homeless on the island, local journalist Jona Tuiletufuga told AFP.

“We are getting reports of missing people in areas where damage is extensive on the south and southeast coasts,” he told AFP. “Entire villages have been wiped out.”

Tuiletufuga said there were up to 70 villages in the worst-hit area and each housed from 300-800 people.

Apia, capital of the independent state of Samoa and nearly 3,000 kilometres (1,864 miles) from Auckland in New Zealand, was evacuated as officials scrambled to get thousands of residents to higher ground.

Officials in American Samoa, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Samoa, said at least 22 people were dead and that the toll was expected to climb.

“It could take a week or so before we know the full extent,” Michael Sala, Homeland Security director in American Samoa, told AFP.

Waves measuring around 25-feet (7.5-metres) high did most of the damage as they swept ashore about 20 minutes after the earthquake, demolishing buildings in coastal areas, he said.

Witnesses said cars were swept out to sea in American Samoa, where buildings were destroyed in what the US territory’s Congress delegate said was a scene of “devastation.”

The eastern part of the island was without power and water supplies after the devastating earthquake, which struck at 6:48 am (1748 GMT) at a depth of 18 kilometres (11 miles), 195 kilometres south of Apia.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said waves of up to 1.57 metres (over five feet) had smashed into American Samoa. It issued a tsunami alert over a vast swathe of the Pacific, as far as Hawaii, which was later cancelled.

Australia said at least one of its citizens was feared dead and six others missing, while a New Zealander was also feared dead.

Australia’s foreign ministry also said it had reports of death and injuries in the Tonga and the Niua islands after the tsunami hit, while two South Koreans were among the dead, Seoul officials said.

Australia and New Zealand both made preparations to send emergency help to the ravaged region that is home to more than 241,000 people.

Mike Reynolds, superintendent of the National Park of American Samoa which is headquartered in the territory’s capital Pago Pago, told colleagues in California there had been widescale destruction.

National Park Service spokeswoman Holly Bundock said she had spoken to Reynolds, who was sheltering under a coconut tree.

“They said five tsunami waves have hit the park visitor centre in Pago Pago. It would appear park offices and the visitor centre there have been destroyed. “One of the waves was about 30 feet high,” she said.

Source: SGGP