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Tsunami Kills Scores in S. Pacific

Posted October. 01, 2009 07:33,   


A tsunami caused by a powerful earthquake has killed nearly 100 people in Samoa and American Samoa, foreign media reported yesterday.

The victims included two Koreans killed and one missing.

The U.S. Geological Survey said a powerful earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale erupted at 6:48 a.m. Tuesday 3,500 meters beneath the sea and about 190 kilometers southwest of American Samoa.

About 20 minutes later, a giant tsunami struck American Samoa. Around that time, the tsunami’s waves reached Samoa about 204 kilometers from the epicenter and about 100 kilometers from American Samoa.

Nineteen people were killed in American Samoa, 63 in Samoa, and four in Tonga. Relief authorities conducted search operations to find victims, so the death toll will probably top 100.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said a tsunami with 1.5-meters waves swept American Samoa. But eyewitnesses said a tsunami wave as high as four to six meters reached inland areas 1.6 kilometers from the beach.

On the Korean victims of the tsunami, a Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry source in Seoul said, “A survey found that Lee In-saeng (62), chairman of a ocean fisheries association in American Samoa, and Shin Mi-ja (46) were killed. Shin’s daughter Woo Ga-bi (9) is also missing.”

A total of 234 ethnic Koreans live on American Samoa but far more were on the island at the time of the disaster, including tourists.

Kwon Taek-yong, chairman of the ethnic Korean association on the island, told The Dong-A Ilbo, “More than 300 Koreans live here, including those who run restaurants and dry cleaners,” adding, “Lee was a hardworking person who opened his restaurant at 4 a.m. as usual.”

Lee was scheduled to visit Korea soon for a medical checkup. He had planned to go to Korea last month but sent his wife instead, saying “I cannot leave the restaurant unattended for too long.”

In Korea, his wife fainted after hearing of her husband’s death, according to one of her relatives.

zsh75@donga.com firedy@donga.com