APIA, Samoa - A police official says 63 people are confirmed dead in Samoa following a tsunami that smashed the southern shore of the South Pacific nation.
Samoan police commissioner Lilo Maiava told The Associated Press that police have confirmed 63 deaths, and officials are still searching the devastated areas, so the number of deaths might rise soon.
A powerful Pacific Ocean earthquake with a magnitude between 8.0 and 8.3 spawned towering tsunami waves that swept ashore early Tuesday on Samoa and American Samoa, flooding and flattening villages, killing dozens of people and leaving scores of others missing.
Four tsunami waves 15 to 20 feet high roared ashore, reaching up to a mile (1.6 kilometers) inland, Mike Reynolds, superintendent of the National Park of American Samoa, was quoted as saying by a parks service spokeswoman.
At least 19 people also were killed in American Samoa.
Maiava says hundreds of injured are being treated by health workers and that people are still struggling into centers seeking treatment.
Cars and people were swept out to sea by the fast-churning water as survivors fled to higher ground, where they remained huddled hours after the quake struck early Tuesday. Signs of devastation were everywhere, with a giant boat washed ashore lying on the edge of a highway and floodwaters swallowing up cars and homes.
"I don't think anybody is going to be spared in this disaster," said acting American Samoa Gov. Faoa A. Sunia.