Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two Australians confirmed dead in Samoa tsunami

Two Australians confirmed dead in Samoa tsunami


A six-year-old girl has died in the Samoa tsunami, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says.
There are grave fears for another three Australians, he told the Seven Network.
The girl is Australian's second victim.
Marree Blacker, of Longford in Tasmania, was celebrating her 50th birthday with her husband John, a well-known horse-trainer, when the disaster struck.
Another six Australians are missing.
Troy Blacker says his brother John has a broken jaw and few other injuries.
"John's got few injuries sustained in the earthquake and unfortunately Maree has been confirmed killed," Mr Blacker said.
He said the couple were holidaying on one of Samoa's smaller islands when the tsunami hit.
"They were only there for a couple of more days before returning home and a devastating thing like this happens," Mr Blacker said.
He said the couple were in their room when the quake hit.
"The water and all that went over the top of them," he said.
"They felt the earthquake and then ran outside and when they went outside the waves were there to get them."
Mr Blacker said the couple had arrived on the island at the weekend.
A total of eight Australians have been injured - three of them are still in hospital.
"Current advice suggests none of them are in life-threatening situations," Australia's foreign affairs parliamentary secretary Bob McMullan told reporters.
Death toll could top 100
There are fears the death toll in Samoa could top 100 after the 8.3 magnitude quake struck early Tuesday morning local time (0348 Wednesday AEST), triggering a massive tsunami that washed through the Pacific.
One New Zealander has died and nine have been injured.
According to Mr McMullan, up to 10 people may have been killed in Tonga.
Samoa has formally asked for help from Australia, New Zealand and France, which are discussing how to best to provide aid such as tents, water purification tablets and medical supplies. Tonga has not yet asked for formal help.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd spoke to Samoa's acting prime minister, offering Australia's sympathies and whatever practical assistance was needed.
"We see our friends in Samoa as part of our Pacific family," Mr Rudd told reporters.
"We are working ... very closely, not just with the Samoans, but with our friends in New Zealand, the government of France, and others who are active in the region to provide all levels of practical support possible.
"But it may take some time before the full impact of this natural disaster is known."
Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the coalition would support the government's efforts to provide whatever assistance was necessary to help Australia's Pacific neighbour.
"The coalition extends its deepest sympathies to the affected families and communities as they cope with the loss of loved ones and the destruction of homes and businesses," she said in a statement.
Australia has two RAAF Hercules on standby at Richmond air base to deploy once details have been ironed out.
"We are finalising the details within the Australian government and with New Zealand and France," Mr McMullan said.
"I expect it would be of the character of medical teams and search and rescue teams, and things like tents to provide temporary shelter.
"The final details are still being worked out about who can most efficiently do which."
DFAT reissues travel advice
A disaster response team of officials from foreign affairs and defence was set to leave for Samoa on Wednesday afternoon.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has reissued its travel advice for Samoa, warning of the dangers associated with the disaster that hit parts of the island popular with tourists.
Authorities aren't sure exactly how many Australians may be in the affected areas but Mr McMullan said it was expected to be in the hundreds given the number who holidayed and worked in Samoa.
The numbers could be higher because of school holidays in Australia.
Tourists should still be able to leave by commercial flights but the government will consider additional assistance, if necessary.
The earthquake's proximity to islands meant communities had little warning of the impending giant wave that it triggered.
Mr McMullan said there was nothing to suggest the tsunami warning system had not worked.
"(But) if it is an issue we will have a look after we have dealt with the humanitarian crisis," he said.
Australia and New Zealand have both received appeals for help from the Samoan government.
"We are now discussing with the New Zealand and Samoan governments how best we can meet this request," a spokesman from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.
A team of officials from foreign affairs and defence is en route to Samoa.
United States President Barack Obama has declared "a major disaster exists" in American Samoa, while Samoa's deputy prime minister Misa Telefoni says popular resort areas have been devastated.
DFAT has reissued its travel advice for Samoa, warning of the dangers associated with the overnight natural disasters.


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Quake and tsunami death toll rises in Samoa and American Samoa

The death toll from the massive earthquake and tsunami in Samoa and neighbouring American Samoa is continuing to rise, with emergency officials in the Samoan capital Apia saying 62 people are now confirmed dead.
Another 142 people are listed as injured.
In American Samoa the official death toll is now at least two dozen.
Up to 10 people are also feared to have died from the tsunami in Tonga where officials have confirmed seven people are dead, three remain missing and four have serious injuries.
In Samoa, the spokesperson for the Disaster Management Office, Filomena Nelson, says many of the dead are children and elderly people who were evacuated but came back to watch.
She says the toll is sure to rise.
“We’re expecting it to increase this evening. All our emergency services are out in the affected area and are doing the search for those who are buried under the debris at the moment, and just doing our search to get people out if there are casualties and injuries.”
The Disaster Management Office in Samoa says children and the elderly make up most of the death toll following the 8.0 earthquake and tsunami which struck early on Tuesday Samoa time.
The quake centred some two hundred kilometres southwest of Samoa at a depth of only ten kilometres.
Meanwhile, police in Samoa say they were responsible for a second tsunami alert issued in Apia about 11 hours later.
The central business district was evacuated again and residents told to move to higher ground.
The police working on the coast of the island thought they had seen another body of water approaching and radioed to the central office in Apia to set off the alarm.
They say the alarm has been stopped and people are returning to their homes.
Senior health officials in Samoa are talking to Australia and New Zealand about the sort of medical help that might be required following the disaster.
Teams have been sent out to provide emergency help on the southern coast of the island of Upolu where there are two local hospitals.
One at Lalomanu is stabilising the injured and taking in the dead, the other at Poutasi is thought to have been affected by the earthquake and subsequent waves.
The Chief Executive Officer at the Ministry of Health, Palanitina Toelupe, is at the main hospital and says people were injured by collapsing buildings and then the huge seas:
“We have had people brought in that have been washed out and then washed back in, washed in and then washed back out. We have a couple that were in a car with three children, they were washed out to the sea, then two children got killed and the couple and their eldest son were saved.”
Mrs Toelupe says the area is devastated and many families have relatives missing.
The scene on the south coast of the main island of Upolu is being described as mayhem.
Dive school owner Ian Cooper says the massive wave and the destruction have left him and others in the area feeling shell shocked.
“It hit the beach, it didn’t go very far inland where we were, but the power of the wave, I mean it’s phenomenal what it’s done. I mean it’s ripping up concrete and a lot of places have only got concrete slabs left of their buildings. The first time I arrived it was just utter destruction, I mean I couldn’t believe my eyes. My vessel, my diving boat, it’s a three-tonne diving boat, it’s now sitting on top of the hotel next door.”
Ian Cooper says there is no power in the area and he is still trying to make sense of what has happened.
Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi says he is shocked beyond belief by the devastation.
Tuilaepa has described it as an unimaginable tragedy, saying so much has gone and so many people are gone.
In neighbouring American Samoa, emergency shelters have been set up and roads are being cleared of debris.
The American Samoa Governor, Togiola Tulafono, who is in Honolulu, says at least 24 people died.
A State of Emergency has been declared following the earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
There’s been reported wide-spread damage to individual, public and commercial buildings in coastal areas while the capital Pago Pago is among the worst affected areas.
Shelters have been activated by various churches particularly on the eastern side of the main island Tutuila and are currently being filled by people left homeless from the disaster.
The Public Information officer at American Samoa’s office of homeland security, Betty Ah Son, says land transport links are being restored quickly.
“The Department of Public Works were able to clear most of the debris off the roads and people are able to travel around. we’re trying to discourage them from just jumping in the car and looking around so we have more room for emergency vehicles. We have activated the department of education school bus system to transport people that have damaged their homes and need to get into shelters.”
Betty Ah Son says most of American Samoa’s population is without electricity because the power infrastructure was devastated.
But she says in the meantime several villages on Tutuila are using generators, as is the main hospital which is now operational again after being evacuated.
“They’ve got their own generator now. The only thing that they have asked is co-ordinating some more power to assist with the two containers which (hold) the bodies at the morgue.”
Meanwhile, Tonga’s emergency services are having trouble sending a plane to the northern islands after reports that the tsunami may have killed ten people on Niuatoputapu.
The plane was unable to land at the local airport which has been forced to close after reported damage from the tsunami.
The National Emergency management office’s, Mafua Maka, says they have had no contact to the island.
“At this stage, we have unofficially confirmed that ten people are missing on Niuatoputapu. We have sent a plane, a charter flight, and they were assessing the situation from the air.”
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s government has been in contact with Samoan officials to determine the most urgent priorities for supplies and personnel, following this morning’s devastating earthquake and tsunami off Samoa.
New Zealand has offered Samoa any assistance that Samoa needs both in the short term, and to help accommodate people and rebuild infrastructure in the coming months.
An Airforce Orion, mainly carrying medical supplies, has already left for Samoa while New Zealand’s Acting Prime Minister Bill English says a Hercules aircraft is to be sent with more supplies following a request from Samoan officials.
“And they have asked for medical supplies for tents, for temporary morgue facilities, stretchers and food supplies. We’ll also be sending a medical team up and more medical personnel.”
New Zealand’s Red Cross is planning to send tarpaulins, water containers and first aid kits to Samoa to assist the victims of the earthquake and tsunami.
The organisation’s international operations manager, Andrew McKie, says 130 Samoan volunteers are already on the ground to help the victims.
But Mr McKie says they need some help.
“They have requested assistance with, firstly a person going over and help them take stock of the situation and assist with assessments along the southern coast. We’re also deploying some emergency relief supplies, which is 500 tarpaulins, 500 water containers and 200 first aid kits.”
Andrew McKie hopes the emergency supplies will be sent tomorrow.
The Northern Cook Islands appears to have escaped unscathed from the earthquake and tsunami.
A spokesperson from the Cook Islands High Commission in Wellington has confirmed the low-lying Islands of Palmerston and Pukapuka which are the closest in the group to Samoa have been unaffected by the disaster.
Telecom New Zealand says phone lines to the Cook Islands have been down because of this morning’s events.
Meanwhile, residents in Niue, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Kiribati and eastern parts of Fiji all took precautions against the tsunami but reported no significant activity.

Tsunami causes deaths in American Samoa-US park service

Tsunami causes deaths in American Samoa-US park service


A tsunami following an earthquake in the Pacific Ocean off has caused some deaths in American Samoa , but there is no word of how many died, an official for the U.S. National Park Service said on Tuesday.

Holly Bundock, spokeswoman for the National Park Service's Pacific West Region in Oakland, California, quoted Mike Reynolds, superintendent of the National Park of American Samoa, as saying there had been some deaths.

More than 120 killed as tsunami hits Samoas

More than 120 killed as tsunami hits Samoas


WELLINGTON: More than 120 people were killed when a series of tsunamis triggered by a magnitude 8.0 earthquake swept across the South Pacific,

Overturned people

Huge tsunami waves spawned by a powerful undersea quake of magnitude 8.0 hit Samoa islands and American Samoa. (Reuters)
reports from the region said on Wednesday. ( Watch Video )

At least 100 people were killed in Samoa, the disaster management office of the island state of 220,000 people said. Several tourist resorts and villages were destroyed, it reported.

Another 19 people died in neighbouring American Samoa, while 10 deaths were reported on Tonga's northern island of Niuatoputapu.

New Zealand's 'Stuff news' website quoted witnesses as saying the devastation in Samoa was unimaginable "with bodies, covered in clothes, strewn around coastal villages".

Reports said cars and people, including children torn from the arms of their mothers, were swept out to sea by waves of up to six metres as survivors fled to high ground, where they remained huddled hours later.

New Zealand's acting Prime Minister Bill English told a news conference in Wellington there had been "considerable loss of life" with many more deaths likely to be reported in an unfolding tragedy.

An unknown number of New Zealand and Australian tourists, holidaying in Samoa, were believed to have died, trapped in tourist resorts as the tsunami followed one of the world's biggest earthquakes this year.

The south coast of Samoa's main island Upolu was devastated. "We've had very heavy damage all along the coast and most of the tourist resorts have been wiped out," Samoa's Deputy Prime Minister Misa Telefoni said.

Up to 20 people were reported killed in the beach resort Lalomanu, which is popular with New Zealand and Australian holidaymakers.

US President Barack Obama declared a "major disaster" in the US territory of American Samoa, freeing up federal funds for disaster relief.

English said a New Zealand air force maritime surveillance plane has been sent to look for survivors swept out to sea and other defence forces put on standby to fly medical aid and emergency shelters to Samoa, a former New Zealand territory.

The US Geological Survey put the magnitude of the quake, which was located about 204 km southwest of Samoa, at 8.0 on the Richter scale after earlier estimating it at 8.3.

As aftershocks continued to hit the two Samoa states, seismologists reported two more quakes measuring 5.6 and a third of 5.8 in the South Pacific.

The 'Pacific Tsunami Warning Center' lifted its alert to countries across the South Pacific about five hours after the first quake and people in Samoa were reported to be returning to the sites of their homes to inspect the damage and search for the missing.

Civil defence officials in New Zealand, 2,685 km away from the quake's epicentre, issued an alert for the country's entire coastline after the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said a three-metre tsunami was travelling across the Pacific at about 800 km an hour.

It lifted its warning after nine hours, telling people it was safe to return to the beaches.