One NZer dead, more 'likely' in tsunami hit Samoa

By NZPA, Patrick Gower

A family member has confirmed New Zealand's first death in the tsunami which struck Samoa today.

Acting Prime Minister Bill English said there was a "reliable but unconfirmed report" of the death.

He also said there were concerns for more New Zealanders who were staying at resorts hit hard by the tsunami.

"There are likely to be more New Zealand fatalities," Mr English said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has confirmed three New Zealanders have also been injured in the tsunami.

Mr English said officials were waiting to hear from the Samoan government what they need before a Hercules leaves for the country.

It is understood that several resorts on the southern coast of Samoa's Upolo Island have been obliterated.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully said there were unconfirmed reports of five deaths on the northern Tongan island of Niuatoputapu. The airport runway was said be littered with large rocks.

He said the Cook Islands had reported limited wave activity and serious damage, but said there was limited communication with the islands in the northern Cooks.

There are no concerns over the Tokelau Islands which were not in the path of the tsunami.

Mr English said there were also concerns about the impact on American Samoa and the Government was liaising with the United States over that.

Mr English said there were no estimates of the number of New Zealanders in Samoa, but there were a lot more than usual because of the school holidays.

He advised New Zealanders in Samoa to register their presence with the New Zealand High Commission in Apia.

The NZ High Commission in Apia said about 100 New Zealanders had registered with it.

It also confirmed that at least three New Zealand holidaymakers had been hurt by the tidal wave.

Interactive map of affected area


View Samoa earthquake in a larger map

"As far as we can tell though their injuries are not serious or life-threatening," acting High Commissioner David Dolphin told NZPA.

"All I know is that somehow they were caught up in the tsunami. I believe they were holidaymakers."

He understood that they had been staying one of the resorts most affected.

Mr Dolphin said that it was possible that other New Zealanders may have been injured as reports continue to come in.

"A large proportion of the south coast has just been obliterated," he said

He said he was trying to get there from Apia to assess what was needed and how New Zealand could help.

Authorities were to meet later today to decide how much aid was needed.

"Our two priorities are first of all to establish that as many New Zealanders as we can track down are safe and well, and secondly to establish what needs the Samoan government has and how we can meet them."

"But most don't register when they are just coming for a short holiday."

The earthquake, at 6.48am at a depth of 35km, was centred 205km south of the Samoan capital of Apia, and 2685km northeast of Auckland.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is advising New Zealand's to defer non-urgent travel to Samoa.

Air New Zealand sent up a larger than usual plane today in order to accommodate a higher demand for departures.

- Newstalk ZB

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

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