Brisbane Courier Mail
By staff writers and wires
September 30, 2009 06:44am
The No.1 on a map on the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre website shows the tsunami threat. / News Limited picture
A POWERFUL 8.3 magnitude earthquake has struck in the Pacific, with reports of deaths after a tsunami hit Samoa and American Samoa.
The tsunami warning also covers New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga, while Hawaii, where the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre is based, is on tsunami watch.
A spokesman for the centre told Sky News water levels were 2m above normal sea level in Samoa and American Samoa in the aftermath of the quake.
"That's potentially a very destructive tsunami."
There were reports of fatalities in both Samoa and American Samoa and of "walls of water" flattening coastal villages.
In New Zealand, residents of the Coromandel coast on the north island were told to leave low-lying areas with warnings of a 1m tsunami.
There was no threat to Australia this morning.
The US Geological Survey initially reported a 7.9 magnitude earthquake 204km south-southwest of Apia and at a depth of 85km.
But the tsunami centre later said an 8.3 magnitude quake had been recorded at a depth of 33km.
The resulting tsunami warning sent coastal residents fleeing to higher ground.
"I'm taking my family to a safe place. Everyone's getting out of coastal areas," Samoa resident Keni Lesa said from the capital Apia.
"We have done a lot of training for this.''
The tsunami warning also covered Niue Island, the Wallis and Futuna Islands, the Tokelau atolls, the Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Kermadec Islands, the Baker and Howland Islands, Jarvis Island, French Polynesia and the Palmyra Islands.
A tsunami watch was issued for Vanuatu, Nauru, the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Kosrae Island, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, Pohnpei in Micronesia, the Wake Islands, Pitcairn and the Midway Islands.
"This warning is based only on the earthquake evaluation. An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines near the epicentre within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours," the warning centre said.
"Authorities should take appropriate action in response to this possibility.''