APIA, Samoa — Disaster officials rushed food, medicine and a temporary morgue to the Samoas on Wednesday after a powerful earthquake unleashed a tsunami that flattened villages and swept cars and people out to sea. At least 99 people were killed.
Survivors fled the waves for higher ground on the South Pacific islands after the magnitude 8.0 quake struck at 6:48 a.m. local time (1:48 p.m. EDT; 1748 GMT) Tuesday.
Four tsunami waves 15 to 20 feet (4 to 6 meters) high roared ashore on American Samoa about 15 minutes after the quake, reaching up to a mile (1.5 kilometers) inland, Mike Reynolds, superintendent of the National Park of American Samoa, was quoted as saying by a parks service spokeswoman.
Military transports carrying medical personnel, food, water, medicines and other supplies were headed to the stricken islands.
"Right now, we're focused on bringing in the assistance for people that have been injured, and for the immediate needs of the tens of thousands of survivors down there," said Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate. A Coast Guard C-130 plane loaded with aid and carrying FEMA officials was headed from Hawaii to American Samoa's capital of Pago Pago, where debris had been cleared from runways to allow for emergency planes to land.