The death toll in Samoa and American Samoa rose to 99 early today, according to news reports, after a powerful tsunami triggered by a deep ocean earthquake devastated coastal towns. Dozens of people were still missing.
Seventeen hours after the magnitude 8.0 temblor struck, another massive ocean earthquake off the coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island early today killed at least 75 people and trapping thousands under rubble. A tsunami warning was issued in the region but was later lifted.
The earlier quake was centered about 120 miles south of the islands of Samoa and American Samoa. It sent four waves, each 15 to 20 feet high, crashing up to a mile inland, according to the Associated Press.
Photographs posted online show collapsed buildings, overturned vehicles and debris strewn across coastal communities. Electricity was said to be out in most parts of the islands because of a downed power plant that may not return online for a month, according to samoanews.com.
President Obama declared a major disaster for American Samoa, an American territory of 65,000 inhabitants, and said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working with emergency responders in the region.
FEMA said it was sending teams and supplies from Hawaii.
Six people were confirmed dead in Tonga, south of the Samoas, according to Associated Press, which cited New Zealand's acting prime minister, Bill English. He said Tongan officials told him that four people were missing after the tsunami struck the northern island of Niua.
In Indonesia, the death toll was expected to rise after the massive earthquake toppled schools, hotels and shops in Padang, a city of 900,000 people, Reuters reported.
The shaker was felt hundreds of miles away in Singapore and the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
"Hundreds of houses have been damaged along the road. There are some fires, bridges are cut and there is extreme panic here," said a Reuters witness in the city, who also said broken water pipes had triggered flooding.
Padang is on one of the world's most active fault lines, where the Indo-Australia tectonic plate grinds against the Eurasia plate to create regular tremors and sometimes quakes. A 9.1-magnitude quake centered 373 miles northwest of Padang triggered the 2004 tsunami which killed 232,000 people in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, and other countries across the Indian Ocean.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times