APIA - An earthquake was felt today in Samoa almost at the same hour the tsunami struck a year ago.

With a magnitude of 5.5 it was significantly less than the the 8.1 magnitude earthquake which caused the tsunami that Samoa is commemorating today.

The event today which lasted mere seconds occurred at 08.49am local time (7.49am NZT) while survivors of the tsunami from last year were preparing for commemorative services to remember those who perished.

According to the Europe Centre of Seismology the epicentre of the 40km deep quake was 201km from South Siumu, which is one of the areas that was severely hit by the tsunami last year.

Fortunately it did not last long although some locals were unsettled by the event.

Thousands of Samoans are today remembering the 149 residents and tourists killed in last year's tsunami, with services beginning early this morning. Another 34 people were killed in American Samoa and nine in Tonga.

The Samoan villages of Saleapaga, Lalomanu, Lepa and Poutasi will host evening prayer services to remember their loved ones and some families are holding their own private memorials.

Samoa's government has said that the national commemoration will take place on October 3 with a prayer service at the public burial grounds at Tafaigata.

The tsunami was generated by a 8.1. magnitude quake which struck at 6.48am local time 205km south of Samoa.

The wave registered as far away as New Zealand's east coast.