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Quakes highlight importance of today's ShakeOut event

Two earthquakes — occurring within hours of each other — rattled the Samoa and Tonga regions yesterday morning but there have been no reports of damage or injuries, according to authorities. The quakes came 24-hours before today’s worldwide “ShakeOut” event in which American Samoa is a participant.


The first one, measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale and closer to the Samoan islands, was around 3:49 a.m. local time in the Samoa Islands region and was located about 69 miles north of Hihifo, Tonga, or 151 miles west-southwest of Apia, Samoa and 204 miles west-southwest of Tafuna, American Samoa, according to the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) website.

Carol Baqui, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Tafuna, says the quake was considered minimum and their office didn’t receive reports from any residents, who may have felt the early morning quake.

Samoa News didn’t get any calls from any member of the public about being woken up due to the quake.

The second quake, measuring 5.5 on the scale, was within the Tonga region - about 27 miles south-southwest of Neiafu Tonga, 1660 miles north-northeast of Nuku'alofa, Tonga, 390 miles south-southwest of Apia and 394 miles southwest of Tafuna, the USGS said.

The USGS website didn’t record any one responding to have felt the Samoa region quake but two at Neiafu did report feeling the quake in Tonga region.

As of yesterday afternoon, there were no reports from Tonga on any damage.

The last major quake to hit our region was an 8.0 in September 2009, spawning  a killer tsunami that claimed the lives of 34 in American Samoa, three in Tonga and more than 100 in neighboring Samoa.


The great American Samoa ShakeOut is set for 10:18 a.m. today (Oct. 18) and the territory is among many world jurisdictions participating in this annual event, which focuses on what to do when an earthquake occurs: “Drop - Cover - Hold On”. The local event is being coordinated by the local Department of Homeland Security’s Territorial Emergency Management Coordinating Office — which has been running advertisements about the event. (The ads were also carried by Samoa News)

The “Great ShakeOut earthquake drills help people in homes, schools and organizations improve preparedness and practice how to be safe during earthquakes,” according to the website, whose sponsors includes the USGS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“Events like the great ShakeOut raise awareness about the importance of disaster preparedness and show how individuals and communities can connect, engage, participate and learn what actions to take before, during and after an earthquake,” said President Barack Obama in an Oct. 9 letter released by the White House about this event.

ASDHS official Fagafaga Daniel Langkilde said yesterday this is the second year American Samoa is participating in the worldwide drill; 2011 was the first.

“Several schools will be included in the local drill and LBJ Medical Center has asked to be included as well,” said Fagafaga responding to Samoa News inquiries.

In a joint Sept. 29 letter, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano stressed the importance of events like the Shakeout and how critical they are for school preparedness.

“All schools, organizations, and households play a critical role in helping our nation become better prepared for any disaster or emergency,” the letter says. “Schools are especially important in providing our next generation of leaders with the tools to help teach their friends, families and peers how to be ready for an earthquake....”

TEMCO provided additional information on “Drop, Cover and Hold On”. When inside a building:

•            DROP to the ground - before the earthquake drops you

•            Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table; and

•            HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.

Then stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit.

If you are outdoors when the shaking starts, you should find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, streetlights and power lines, then Drop, Cover and Hold On. Stay there until the shaking stops.

Complete details and tips on what to do when an earthquake occurs can be obtained from TEMCO at 699-6481.