Obama Declares American Samoa "Major Disaster"

Move will rush federal aid to Tsunami-devastated island

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    A main road in the downtown area of Fagatogo, is seen flooded by water from the tsunami in American Samoa. Towering tsunami waves spawned by a powerful earthquake swept ashore on Samoa and American Samoa early Tuesday.

    President Obama declared American Samoa a "major disaster" following a Tsunami that left at least 149 dead and several villages flooded, paving the way for a massive relief effort to the South Pacific island region.

    "I am closely monitoring these tragic events, and have declared a major disaster for American Samoa, which will provide the tools necessary for a full, swift and aggressive response," Obama said.

    Four devastating, 20-foot-high waves, triggered by a powerful 8.3-magnitude earthquake on the ocean floor, roared as far as a mile inland in the Pacific island chain. U.S. government agencies said dozens are missing in addition to the dead. Obama's declaration mobilized an array of federal agencies to begin getting aid to the islands.

     The Samoa islands are comprised of the nation of Samoa and the U.S. territory American Samoa, with a combined population of roughly 250,000. Experts predicted the number of casualties would rise. In the capital of Pago Pago, streets and fields were strewn with overturned cars and boats as the cleanup effort got underway.

    Early Wednesday, another earthquake struck Indonesia's Sumatra island, killing at more than 500 and leaving thousands trapped.

    Get more: MSNBC, BBC