PAGO PAGO, American Samoa – A powerful Pacific Ocean earthquake spawned towering tsunami waves that swept ashore on Samoa and American Samoa, flooding and flattening villages, killing dozens of people and leaving several workers missing at devastated National Park Service facilities.
Cars and people were swept out to sea by the fast-churning water as survivors fled to higher ground, where they remained huddled hours after the quake struck early Tuesday. Signs of immense devastation were everywhere, with a giant boat getting washed ashore and coming to rest on the edge of a highway and flood waters swallowing up cars and homes.
The quake, with a magnitude between 8.0 and 8.3, struck around dawn about 20 miles below the ocean floor, 120 miles (190 kilometers) from American Samoa, a U.S. territory that is home to 65,000 people.
Hampered by power and communications outages, officials hours later struggled to get a handle on the damage and casualties.
Mase Akapo, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in American Samoa, reported at least 19 people killed in four different villages on the main island of Tutuila.