Acting Prime Minister Bill English had family concerns to deal with when the tsunami struck Samoa today.

His wife Mary is part-Samoan and they have relatives living in Samoa.

He said he had been able to make contact with them.

"My relatives are fine, I spoke to them this afternoon. They are on higher ground," he said.

Prime Minister John Key, who is on holiday in the United States with his family after attending the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York, dealt with high-level political contact.

Mr English said Mr Key had spoken to Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who was on his way home and had stopped in transit in Auckland.

Mr Key offered the Samoan prime minister all the help New Zealand could give.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has been co-ordinating the relief effort with the Australian government.