Nine NZers injured in Samoan tsunami - one dead

The Government tonight reported one New Zealander dead and nine injured after a tsunami smashed through the southern coast of Samoa.

Acting Prime Minister Bill English said about 150 New Zealanders had reported to the High Commission in Apia, 70 of them from the worst-hit resort areas.

"We have no further information about New Zealand fatalities and there won't be until Samoan authorities have identified the growing number of bodies that are coming in," Mr English said as the overall death toll was reported to have reached about 100.

Mr English confirmed an air force Orion had reached Samoa to help search for people washed out to sea by the tsunami that followed a huge earthquake off the coast of American Samoa at 6.48am (NZT).

A Hercules transport aircraft was due to leave about midnight with medical supplies and army medical personnel, as well as tents, food and temporary morgues asked for by the Samoan government.

Mr English said some of the people turning up at the High Commission had lost everything.

"They have no passports, no clothes, they're being looked after in the best way possible," he said.

The nine injured New Zealanders were in two hospitals in Apia, but he had no other details.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the lower parts of Apia were evacuated this evening after a second tsunami warning, which did not appear to be linked to another earthquake.

The High Commission was also evacuated and was operating from the home of the deputy high commissioner which was on high ground.

Mr McCully said the dead New Zealander had been holidaying with family and friends.

"The friends had to break the news to the family back in New Zealand," he said.

Mr English said it was important for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have as much information as possible about New Zealanders in Samoa, and he appealed to their families in New Zealand to make contact so names could be checked.

Mr McCully said consular staff were "working feverishly" to help people who were reporting in.

He expected there would be more flights taking supplies to Samoa in the next few days, and help from the navy was a possibility.

Samoa had asked for a helicopter and that was being discussed with Australian authorities.


* Click here to donate to the Red Cross' Samoa earthquake/tsunami appeal.

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