From this Associated Press story that we found at the Star Press online, reporters Keni Lesa And Fili Sagapolutele tell us what happened.
Survivors fled the waves of water for higher ground on the South Pacific islands after the magnitude 8.0 quake struck at 6:48 a.m. local time (1:48 p.m. EDT; 1748 GMT) Tuesday. The quake was centered about 120 miles south of the islands of Samoa, which has about 180,000 people, and American Samoa, a U.S. territory of 65,000.
Four tsunami waves 15 to 20 feet (4 to 6 meters) high roared ashore on American Samoa about 15 minutes after the quake, reaching up to a mile (1.5 kilometers) inland, Mike Reynolds, superintendent of the National Park of American Samoa, was quoted as saying by a parks service spokeswoman.
Less than 24 hours later, another strong underwater earthquake rocked western Indonesia on Wednesday, briefly triggering a tsunami alert for countries along the Indian Ocean. The 7.6-magnitude quake toppled buildings, cut power and triggered a landslide on Sumatra island, and at least 75 people were reported killed. Experts said the seismic events were not related.
The Samoan capital, Apia, was virtually deserted by afternoon, with schools and businesses closed. Hours after the waves struck, sirens rang out with another tsunami alert and panicked residents headed for higher ground again, although there was no indication of a new quake.
In American Samoa’s capital of Pago Pago, the streets and fields were filled with ocean debris, mud, overturned cars and several boats as a massive cleanup effort stretched into the night. Several buildings in the city – just a few feet above sea level – were flattened. Power was expected to be out in some areas for up to a month.
In Washington, President Obama has declared a major disaster for American Samoa. Obama said in a statement early Wednesday that he and his wife, Michelle, “will keep those who have lost so much in our thoughts and prayers.”
Hampered by power and communications outages, officials in the South Pacific islands struggled to determine damage and casualties.
Samoan police commissioner Lilo Maiava told The Associated Press that police had confirmed 63 deaths but devastated areas were still being searched.