An earthquake that rumbled in the ocean off American Samoa generated three separate tsunami waves blamed for at least five deaths, officials said.
A Samoan journalist said at least five people died when large waves smashed into the coastal village of Fautasi, west of the capital Apia, The Age reported. Samoa Observer Editor Russell Hunter told the Australian newspaper a journalist had reported the fatalities and the death toll could go higher.
New Zealand and other Pacific Ocean islands were under a tsunami warning.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued the warning after the earthquake struck about 120 miles southwest of American Samoa, MSNBC.com reported.
The earthquake, measured at an 8.0 magnitude by the U.S. Geological Survey, hit at 1:28 p.m. EST. The epicenter was about 115 miles northeast of Hihifo, Tonga, and 115 miles southwest of Apia, Samoa.
A tsunami watch was in effect for Hawaii, Papua New Guinea and other small Pacific islands, the warning center said.
The center said a tsunami could be “destructive” in coastal areas as far away from the quake’s epicenter as Hawaii.
Eni Faleomavaega, a representative from American Samoa to the U.S. Congress, told NBC News the quake hit between the North Marianas Islands and American Samoa, generating 10- to 15-foot waves in low-lying areas such as Pago Pago Bay.
“Cars were seen floating,” the congressman said.