An earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale struck in the South Pacific near Tonga and Samoa on 29 September 2009. The quake occurred at approximately 1748 UTC at a depth of 22 mi/35 km; its epicenter was 100 mi/160 km east-northeast of Tonga and 125 mi/205 km south-southwest of Samoa. The tremor caused several waves of up to 15 ft/4.5 m in Samoa and American Samoa that reached nearly 1 mi/1.6 km inland. The tsunami killed at least 99 people in Samoa and American Samoa, and dozens of people are still missing, despite the early warning system that prompted people to move to higher ground.
Details regarding the extent of damage due to the earthquake and tsunami are still emerging, but it appears that American Samoa and the southern portion of Samoa sustained significant damage. Several villages were completely destroyed in American Samoa, and extensive damage was also reported in Pago Pago, the capital. In Samoa, the earthquake damaged the water infrastructure, but communication and power services are operational. There is a potential for low-level transportation disruptions due to the location of the roads along the more heavily impacted southern side of the island. Currently the Samoan capital of Apia has been shut down, with schools and businesses closed. Some locations are expected to be without power for up to a month. Flights into Samoa and American Samoa are reportedly operating. Following the initial earthquake, a series of aftershocks measuring between 5.6 and 5.9 hit the area. Additional aftershocks — some of which could be powerful — are possible. The earthquakes impact in other locations was limited. Tidal surges of 16 in/40 cm hit New Zealand, but they did not significantly affect the country. Alerts were also issued in Hawaii and California in the United States, but they were later withdrawn. In Japan a small wave was reported off the island of Hachijojima approximately 10 hours after the quake, but it did not cause damage or injuries.