Aid flows to tsunami victims in the South Pacific
Disaster officials are delivering food and medicine to the Samoas after a powerful earthquake and an ensuing tsunami caused at least 119 deaths and left hundreds of others injured.
Four tsunami waves, reaching heights of up to six metres, hammered American Samoa 15 minutes after the quake, reaching as far as 1.5 kilometres inland.
The day after the back-to-back disasters, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi was shaken by the devastation that he had seen, including the destruction of his home village of Lepa.
"So much has gone. So many people are gone," Malielegaoi told reporters Wednesday during a flight from Auckland, New Zealand to the Samoan capital of Apia. "I'm so shocked, so saddened by all the loss."
Dozens remain missing and authorities believe the death toll will likely rise further. Reports say most of the dead are elderly people and young children.
The three-minute earthquake rated between 8.0 and 8.3 on the Richter scale when it struck around dawn on Tuesday, some 200 kilometres from Samoa -- an island nation where 180,000 live halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii. Three aftershocks followed, each registering a magnitude of at least 5.6.
"The situation is very bad," Marie-Francoise Borel, a spokesperson for the International Red Cross, told CTV News Channel by phone from Geneva. "This massive wave has swept across-- it's destroyed villages, it's destroyed homes, people are in shock.
"Tremors are continuing," she said. "Tsunami alerts are still ringing so people are of course extremely scared."
The quake hit slightly closer to American Samoa, at a distance of 190 kilometres from the U.S. territory that is home to 65,000 people.
When the tsunami hit, survivors ran for higher ground, where they stayed stranded for hours.
Anthony Tuiolosega, a resident of the American Samoan capital of Pago Pago, said the tsunami came too quickly for people to get away from.
"It was literally within minutes of the earthquake striking that the tsunami hit," he told CTV's Canada AM during a telephone interview from Pago Pago on Wednesday morning.
Tuiolosega said the country's warning system was not able to get the word out in time, leaving some residents warning one another about the tsunami by cellphone.
The tsunami was felt thousands of kilometres away in Japan, where its waves registered off the island of Hachijojima about 10 hours later. No injuries or damages, however, were reported in Japan.
In Samoa, police have so far confirmed 83 deaths. And in American Samoa, Gov. Togiola Tulafono said at least 30 people were killed Tuesday.
"I don't think anybody is going to be spared in this disaster," said Tulafono, speaking in Hawaii where he was to attend a conference.
Tulafono told reporters that a member of his extended family had died during the events of Tuesday.
Another six deaths were confirmed by authorities in Tonga, another island nation west of the Samoas.
The Samoa Red Cross estimates that as many as 15,000 people were affected by Tuesday's tsunami. The aid agency is managing three camps for displaced people and distributing supplies such as clean water, food and first aid, Borel said. It has also dispatched experts from Australia and New Zealand to assist with the recovery.
There have been no reports of Canadian injuries or deaths from the tsunami, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement released on Wednesday. One Canadian was affected by the powerful waves triggered by the earthquake, but that person escaped uninjured, the department said.
In Samoa, the Australian High Commission is responsible for Canadian consular activities.
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press