For Samoans, every earthquake relives 2009

In September 2009, catastrophe struck Samoa in the form of a tsunami which followed two massive earthquakes. On Monday October 24, 2022 around 9pm, an earthquake shook Samoa again.

The horror of the 2009 tsunami was back for those who had survived the natural disaster. Hundreds of people including tourists staying at hotels ran up the hills taking no chances.

The nightmare experienced in 2009 was enough as many Samoans know what that wall of water can do. An estimated 356 people lost their lives at that time. Sua Tala and her family were at home when the tremors were felt recently.

“My husband and I just grabbed our children and we ran to the highest point. We had been told to that after the 2009 tsunami and we just reacted,” she said.

“It was fear not just for our lives but for the children as well. I survived in 2009 but I was not going to take any chances this time,” she said.

The earthquake was not far from Samoa. Picture Samoa Meteorological Services
The earthquake was not far from Samoa. Picture: Samoa Meteorological Services

Taali Asiata said running was an automatic reaction.

“The earth shook for a little over two minutes and when it stopped I told my family members that we needed to get to higher ground,” he said.

“I had a bad experience in 2009 and I was only lucky to survive. My cousins were among those that had gotten swept out to sea.”

Tourists from hotels were woken up and made to run up the hills as well. This ordeal lasted for a short while after the message was passed around that no tsunami had been generated.

Samoa was shaken by a 5.70 magnitude earthquake just before 9pm Monday night. The Samoa Meteorological Service said in a post on its Facebook page at 8.56pm Monday that the earthquake had a magnitude of 5.7km and a depth of 10km, and was recorded in the Tonga region.

The tremor occurred at 8.51pm and lasted close to two minutes. The epicentre of the earthquake was 194.84km southwest from Apia, according to the Meteorological Service.

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The U.S. Geological Survey pinpointed the tremor to be located southwest of Upolu and Savai’i islands and 106km northeast of Hihifo on the island of Niuatoputapu in Tonga.

A total of 12 tidal waves classified as a tsunami since 1868 have killed 360 people in Samoa. Compared to other countries, tsunamis occur rarely.

The strongest tidal wave registered in Samoa so far reached a height of 14.45 meters. On September 29, 2009, this tsunami killed a total of 356 people.

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