There are unconfirmed reports that 40 people from the Samoan village of Lalomanu – on the south-eastern end of the island of Upolu – have been killed.
A New Zealand man called Radio Samoa in Auckland saying he had been in touch with his family in Lalomanu.
Family members said up to 40 people had died following the magnitude 8.3 earthquake and tsunami which hit the island in the early hours of this morning.
Kisa Kupa – a New Zealand citizen who now lives in Samoa – says sirens are still ringing loudly on the main island of Upolu, warning people to head inland or to higher ground.
“My kids were terrified this morning – the house was shaking like anything and objects dropping and smashing on the floor.”
She said there were at least three reported deaths – all children – from the village of Poutasi.
“Children have died and this is very sad because there was no warning when it hit. People were only just getting up.”
Locals on the island of Savai’i, west of Upolu are reporting that the sea has receded and no water is visible.
While everyone in the area has moved to higher ground, there are fears that the water will return as a tsunami.
The quake struck at 6.48am NZ time and was centred 200 kilometres from Samoa’s capital Apia at a depth of 35 kilometres.
Other villages reportedly with many deaths include Vailoa and Malaela in Aleipata – one of the worst hit villages.
Mrs Kupa said many people – although warned to stay inland – had gone to the southern coast of the island looking for loved ones feared swept away while out fishing.
“The radio is hot with calls from all over the island of reports of houses destroyed.”
The West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center reported waves of 1.57m had been recorded at Pago Pago on American Samoa.
The waves that have caused destruction on Western Samoa’s Upolu island were not as big, measuring about 0.7m above normal sea level.
A Radio Polynesia reporter told Radio New Zealand the south and south-east coasts of Upolu appeared to have been hardest hit.
“By the sound of some of the reports that have been coming in, it’s not pretty at all,” he said.
There were reports that low-lying parts of Monono Island, west of Upolu Island, had been underwater, he said.
Samoan journalist Cherelle Jackson said a full tsunami alert was activated about ten minutes after the quake.
All of the capital Apia has been evacuated to higher ground.
“All the schools, workplaces everyone has walked up – it’s like a ghost town,” she said.
There was a really good response from residents who had practised evacuation drills before she said “within minutes school children were walking up the hill”.
Aftershocks are continuing to be felt.