Aid Wednesday began pouring into quake- and tsunami-hit American Samoa as President Barack Obama declared a major disaster exists.
His declaration Tuesday also ordered federal aid to help local recovery efforts in the aftermath of the event, and makes federal funding available to affected individuals on American Samoa, the White House said.
Media reports said as many as 89 people on Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga died from the Pacific tsunami.
Officials said they feared the death toll would rise as workers reached outlying areas.
A monster 8-magnitude earthquake struck near the Samoan Islands Tuesday, triggering three 5-foot tsunamis.
Aftershocks rocked the region Tuesday as reports emerged the tsunami flattened or buried entire villages, CNN said. The water walls were so strong they twisted concrete beams and mangled cars.
Tsunami waves hit in the middle of the Pago Pago harbor, which is just a few feet above sea level, officials said.
“The wave came on shore and washed out people’s homes,” Cinta Brown, an American Samoa homeland security official, told CNN.
The U.S. Coast Guard delivered humanitarian aid and more than 20 officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to American Samoa, John Hamill, FEMA external affairs officer in Oakland, Calif., said. The team includes debris experts, housing experts, members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other disaster relief specialists, he said.