Parts of Samoa 'devastated' in wake of deadly tsunami

Gov. Togiola T.A. Tulafono
Gov. Togiola T.A. Tulafono
Delegate Eni Faleomavaega
Delegate Eni Faleomavaega

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (KHNL) - There's tragedy in the South Pacific; it appears dozens have been killed in the aftermath of an 8.0 magnitude undersea earthquake which shook the islands of Samoa early Tuesday morning Hawaii time. The quake generated four separate tsunamis.

The largest wave struck the harbor at Pago Pago. Many villages are badly damaged and the death toll is climbing. The estimate out of American Samoa is that 63 people were killed, but officials do expect that number to rise. Officials fear as many as 120 people may have lost their lives in Samoa. The southern portion of American Samoa's main island, Tutuila, is said to be "devastated."

In Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center cancelled a tsunami advisory for the state Tuesday at 7:00 PM. They say small waves did arrive in Hawaii shortly after one o'clock Tuesday afternoon, and that at Kahului harbor on Maui, the ocean rose 1.2 feet just after three o'clock.

Forecasters say more small tsunamis are still crossing the Hawaiian Islands, but will not cause any significant flooding or damage. The situation is much different in American Samoa.

"A major connecting bridge in the middle of our bay area was destroyed. The efforts to get people from one side of the bay to the other was heavily compromised" said American Samoa's governor, Togiola T.A. Tulafono.

Governor Tulafono says the infrastructure has been heavily damaged, which is making relief efforts difficult.

Help will soon be on the way from Hawaii. Tuesday night a Coast Guard C- 130 plane is scheduled to leave Hawaii carrying American Samoa's governor as well as some immediate supplies.

Wednesday, the Hawaii Air National Guard will be loading up a plane and heading to American Samoa with even more supplies. More than 80 guardsmen will be on the flight to help with any medical needs, as well as search and rescue efforts.

American Samoa's representative in congress says he knew Hawaii would step in to help.

"I know that our National Guard people out of Hawaii are putting in to volunteer to take shipments. We have a good fleet of C-17s there out of Hawaii. Our National Guard people as well as our ready reserves have been activated. So I'm pretty confident we are going to get some good help with this" said Delegate Eni Faleomavaega.

Tuesday night President Obama declared the territory of American Samoa a major disaster. This action makes federal funding available to anyone affected by the earthquake and tsunami.