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An 8.3-magnitude quake struck at 1748 GMT, generating 5.1ft (1.57m) waves in Apia and Pago Pago, American Samoa.
A Pacific tsunami warning was issued, but it has now been cancelled.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) said the quake struck at a depth of 33km (20 miles) some 190km from Apia.
Radio New Zealand quoted Samoan residents as saying that villages were inundated and homes and cars swept away. Some of the victims in Samoa are believed to have been children.
"I can confirm there is damage, I can confirm there are deaths and I can confirm there are casualties," a Western Samoa
Originally posted by 12.21.12
I wonder how bad the death toll is going to be and whether or not it will affect other regions.
Victims of the tsunami that swept across the South Pacific had only minutes to escape the deadly waves and in some cases didn't receive alerts of danger, despite years of work to upgrade early-warning systems across the region.
At least 119 people were killed and dozens left missing by the tsunami, which inundated tourist resorts and local villages after a massive 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Samoa early Tuesday morning local time. Disaster authorities warned the death toll could rise significantly over the next few days as the full scale of the disaster – much of which occurred in remote areas – is assessed.
Entire towns have been wiped out. Hundreds of people are reported killed and many thousands are now homeless.