- Soon after dawn on Wednesday Sept 1 NZ time the results of a 30km deep tectonic shift and earthquake in the southern pacific sent a tsunami to devastate coastal towns and villages in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga.
Two days later the body count continues as people pull away the debris but well over a hundred have been drowned and many more injured by the fast-flowing rip.
The US Geological Service registered the initial quake at 8.3 on the Richter scale with the aftershock a substantial 5.6 twenty minutes later. Its Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued a warning to south Pacific nations. Location was midway between Western and American Samoa, just over 200km from each.
There were nine deaths and some injuries in Tonga, over 400 miles south west, with the village of Hihifo baring the brunt, but Niue though only 300 miles distant, seems to have been spared as were the islands situated in an arc running west of the Samoas — Mata-Ulu, Wallis and Futuna, and the Fiji group, all within a 400 mile radius.
People on the Samoas spoke of the initial quake going on for at least three minutes. Both capitals — Apia in Western Samoa, Pago Pago in American Samoa — were badly affected and with little time to get to higher ground many of the people drowned were children and the aged.
This week aid is flowing in from the US, Australia and New Zealand whose Orion aircraft was scouring the coastal areas for survivors this week.
Geologists spoke of an undersea rupture to the earth of more than 200kms — compared to the 2004 earthquake off Sumatra with a fault length of more than 1000kms. Its alignment was southeast/northwest throwing its tsunami out against the Samoas and in the opposite direction Tonga and finally New Zealand.