Residents and relief workers in American Samoa and neighboring islands are starting their recovery efforts after Tuesday’s earthquake and tsunami.
A series of tsunamis caused by an undersea earthquake rocked the tiny Pacific islands Tuesday morning. The enormous waves demolished houses, washed away villages, and killed more than 100 people.
Find out the latest updates on this South Pacific tragedy…
President Obama declared a major disaster for American Samoa and ordered federal aid to help recovery efforts. Relief workers and volunteers have already begun searching for survivors and coordinating their clean up efforts.
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The Samoan Islands’ location in the South Pacific with few natural breakers makes them particularly susceptible to damage from hurricanes and tsunamis. Residents of Samoa are familiar with this and know that earthquakes can often trigger the giant waves. As soon as they felt the 8.0 magnitude quake, many instinctively knew to head for higher ground.
The earthquake hit at about 7:50 a.m. and was centered roughly 120 miles south of the islands, generating a series of waves reaching 20 feet in height.
Pictures from Samoa show homes flattened, cars bobbing in the sea, and fishing boats hurled ashore by the powerful waves.
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According to island officials, at least 111 people have been confirmed dead—82 in Samoa, 22 in American Samoa, and seven in Tonga.
FEMA sent cargo planes from Hawaii Wednesday morning to bring relief supplies. Much of the island still remains without electricity or phone service.
Many businesses on the islands are offering bulldozers and other heavy equipment to assist in the relief efforts.
Less than 24 hours after the Samoa tsunami, another massive earthquake shook Sumatra, an island off the coast of Indonesia, killing at least 75 people. Officials issued a tsunami warning for region, but it was later lifted.
The region is located near one of the world’s most active fault lines. In 2004, a massive earthquake along this fault caused the tsunami that killed 232,000 people in countries across the Indian Ocean.
By Dan Bence for PeterGreenberg.com.
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- Safety & Security: Natural Disasters section
- Taking the Kids: Family Voluntourism Experiences