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Update: 6.9 magnitude tremor

The "star" seen in this screen shot from the US Geological Survey website indicates the center of the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred around 10p.m. Friday in American Samoa, Saturday night in Samoa.  [photo: FS]

An earthquake, which the US Geological Survey says occurred in the Tonga region but was close to the Samoan islands, prompted a “tsunami advisory” for American Samoa, as well as neighboring Samoa.

The tremor, with a preliminary magnitude of 6.9 but later downgraded to 6.8, occurred around 10p.m last Friday, the same time the Pago Pago International Airport was busy as Hawaiian Airlines passengers were preparing for the flight to Honolulu.

The HAL aircraft was already on the ground when the quake occurred and departed on time, without any problems.

When the quake happened, some cabinet members were at the airport, including Port Administration director Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Poumele, Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson, and local Homeland Security director Samana Semo Ve’ave’a.

Many island residents, including those at the airport, felt the shake which lasted for several seconds. Those who felt the quake in the two Samoas took to social media to report it and the reactions were calls for prayers.

Samoa News was informed around 10:45p.m. Friday that Samana had returned to his office where his staff was monitoring the tsunami advisory — working with the National Weather Service Office in Tafuna — and keeping in contact with Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, who is acting governor, as Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga is in the US for meetings.

Not long after the quake occurred, a tsunami advisory link was posted on the webpage of the National Weather Service in Tafuna, with the first bulletin issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawai’i announcing a “tsunami advisory” for American Samoa.

The bulletin noted that the quake was centered about 88 miles south of Savai’i Island in Samoa, and some areas may have experienced very strong shaking. Samoa News reached out via phone, text messages and emails to local residents living on the far west side of Tutuila and they confirmed that they felt “strong shaking” during the quake. 

“My family members immediately went outside. It appeared to be a strong quake and it felt like a lifetime,” a Leone resident said via phone around 10:06p.m. Leone was one of the hardest hit villages during the 2009 tsunami, which followed an 8.2 magnitude quake.

The memory of the event remains fresh in many people’s minds.

Another resident who responded by text message said, “The quake lasted a long time and it was frightening; my family was concerned but thankfully, no tsunami for the Samoan islands.”

The Tsunami Warning Center bulletin provided an estimated time of arrival of waves for shoreline villages of America Samoa, starting at 10:18p.m., at Amanave, Leone, Fagamalo and Tafuna.  The second bulletin was issued around 10:31p.m., noting that the tsunami advisory was still in effect. It was just after 11p.m. that the 'all clear' message went out.

As of Saturday afternoon, there have been no local reports of damages caused by the quake.