The earthquake that rocked Samoa at 0648 local time measured 8.3-magnitude on the Richter scale and subsequently generated a killer tsunami that has hit various parts of American Samoa, the south coast of Upolo (the most populated island of Samoa) and the smaller island of Manono. The death toll is estimated at 40 people on both American Samoa and Samoa and is expected to rise.

“As the earthquake struck sirens wailed in Apia, the capital of Samoa and bells rang in coastal villages all over Upolo,” eyewitness Elizabeth Angus said. “People who have been well prepared for a tsunami, immediately moved to higher ground and thousands of people were walking from Apia to the nearby hills.”

However, the tsunami struck on the southern coast of Upolo so quickly and with such ferocity that many people in low-lying areas could not evacuate, according to Angus.

“One of the people who drowned in the tsunami was Tui Annadale, wife of Joe Annandale who is the owner of the upmarket Sinalei Resort on Uplolo’s south coast. Tui was much-loved by the thousands of Australians, New Zealand and American guests who have enjoyed the hospitality of the fabulous resort and Tui’s own commitment to hospitality.”

Although full details are not yet available, several popular tourist resorts on Upolo’s south coast are feared to have been affected by the tsunami, which followed the massive quake.

In Samoa, many of the beach fales and small resorts are literally located on the water’s edge and would have had little warning of a tsunami.

Damage to Apia is reported to be modest although media reports on American Samoa suggest that damage to coastal settlements there has been considerable.

The Samoan Tourism Authority is expected to provide updates in the coming hours.