The reading of the 7.6 magnitude earthquake off Padang
The death toll from two monster tsunami waves that smashed into islands of Western Samoa and American Samoa yesterday is expected to reach more than 200, but so little is still known about the extent of damage in the many villages that dotted coastlines and the dozens of isolated communities across the smaller islands. Whole towns, shopping districts, marketplaces, resorts, hospitals are in ruins. Thousands of homes have been destroyed, key bridges and vital roads washed away.
18 hours after the massive 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck near Samoa, causing the tsunami waves, another huge earthquake erupted 78 kilometres off the coast of Padang, in Indonesia's West Sumatra province.
The 7.6 magnitude quake collapsed hundreds of buildings across the island, and of this 1.20am posting, has killed at least 80 people. Thousands are believed to be trapped or lying dead in the ruins. Landslides are reported to have blocked roads, hampering rescue efforts. Power and phone lines to Padang were cut after the quake, leaving the city of 900,000 in darkness.
An eyewitness report from Joey Cummings, a radio host in American Samoa :
Aftershocks from the quakes are still being felt in Padang and Samoa.
We immediately sent out an earthquake warning on air, to tell everyone to stay away from possible landslide areas. We also asked schools to initiate their tsunami plans to get kids up the mountains.
We sent a tsunami warning 10 minutes later as we saw the first rising water.
We stayed on the air as the water reached three or four feet in the parking lot.
The water stayed at that level for a few minutes, but then it surged to around 15 feet.
All of the staff at the station went outside to the second floor balcony to see what was happening - and the air was filled with screams.
The devastation was complete.
The villagers immediately started looking for trapped survivors. I dedicated myself and my staff to helping those that were hurt, and gathering food and water.
Debris was everywhere. Broken furniture mixed with old tyres and trees. Children's clothing and road signs were crushed under telephone poles.
We screamed for people to run up the mountain but they just ran down the street away from the wave rather than make a sharp left and up the steep mountain just feet away.
We walked down the road only to find that people who weren't trying to help had already begun looting the stores.
School buses full of kids were smiling and waving at all the excitement, while behind them there were pick-up trucks with bodies in them - their feet were hanging out over the tailgate.