Manu’a residents calling to be evacuated, due to volcanic activities


Some residents of Manu’a are calling on the American Samoa Government to evacuate them — due to the widely reported tremors that can be felt in the Manu’a Islands as a result of seismic activities from the Vailulu’u Undersea Volcano (Seamount).

Samoa News reported the residents have taken their frustration and panic to social media, as they say, the tremors are getting stronger — especially with a recent one on Wednesday night at 10 p.m.

American Samoa Department of Homeland Security (ASDHS) director, Samana Semo Ve’ave’a did not answer our calls for comments, but a statement issued on Thursday morning by the Emergency Operation Center indicated that “they are [at] partial activation status”.

“In the last 24 hours, ASG personnel in Manu’a have reported approximately 10 tremors and also two loud booming sounds (most likely sonic booms) from off the coast of Ta’u Island.

The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) highly encourages the public, specifically those in the Manu’a Islands to remain vigilant and alert as the situation develops.

The public is also encouraged to contact the EOC if there are any questions, or concerns or to report any changes pertaining to this event.

Police Commander of the Fitiuta Police Station, Kelemete Sunui told Samoa News that tremors are getting frequent and stronger.

“We have a lot of elderly people here in Ta’u, Fitiuta and Manu’a and therefore the Government should take appropriate actions and evacuate them in case anything happens, better to be safe than sorry,” he said to Samoa News

Fitiuta Village Mayor Logoleo told Samoa News they are meeting with other village mayors and the Police Commander to decide whether to make an official request for evacuation.

He said the first tremor yesterday morning at 8:15 a.m was longer than the others about six seconds, but they have faith God will not forsake His people.

Samoa News also reached out to Lameko Lualemaga an official at the ASDHS in Ofu, for comments but was unsuccessful.

However he posted on his personal Facebook page updates regarding last night’s tremors informing the residents of Ofu and Olosega, there is no tsunami warning issued for the current activities occurring in the Manu’a islands.

“Please be patient. I will keep you updated when it is necessary for us to evacuate. But on the other hand, it is totally up to each and everyone to make decisions regarding your safety. Malo lava le onosa’i,” said one of his posts.

Taeafa Tupuola of Fitiuta told Samoa News, that the tremors are getting frequent and stronger, but in his view, there is no need for the Manu’a people to panic.

“While there is a concern for families living along the coastline, we are confident nothing will happen, we have experienced worst situations like the 2009 Tsunami, which started with an earthquake, but what [we] are experiencing here is nothing like that.

“It is true there are tremors several times on a daily basis since it started but the tremors are not strong,” said Tupuola.

Samoa News further reported that on Wednesday, ASDHS director, Samana confirmed a team of specialists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are heading to American Samoa with instruments to analyze the strength of the underwater volcano activities affecting Manu’a.

The latest update from the US Geological Survey issued yesterday states that since the end of last week, the Pago Pago National Weather Service (PPNWS) office has received reports of earthquakes felt by residents of Taʻu, American Samoa.

“Experts at the Pago Pago National Weather Service office, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, NOAA IOC-International Information Center and USGS are working together to understand better the source of these earthquakes, which are ongoing.

“The real-time earthquake-monitoring network does not currently permit the earthquake magnitudes or locations to be determined precisely.

“However, given that they are being felt and there are no reports of widespread damage, we expect these earthquakes to be less than magnitude 4.

“Earthquakes of this magnitude may cause weak to moderate ground shaking but do not typically cause damage to buildings or infrastructure.

“At this stage, we cannot confirm where the earthquakes are located. There have been prior earthquake swarms and volcanic activity at Vailuluʻu, an underwater volcano 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Taʻū that last erupted in 2003.”

Furthermore, the USGS indicates they do not expect a large explosive eruption like that of Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai in Tonga earlier this year because volcanoes in the two places form from two very different earth processes.

“Like in Hawaii, American Samoa volcanoes are caused by a hotspot —eruptions typically include slow-moving lava flows and low-level explosions of lava localized to a small area.

“Volcanoes in Tonga are caused by the subduction of the Pacific Plate underneath the Indo-Australia Plate, which are more explosive and can produce far-reaching ash clouds.

“Highly explosive activity is not typical of hotspot volcanoes.

“A tsunami could potentially happen due to a fast-occurring and large underwater eruption or a submarine landslide at Vailuluʻu. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center will issue warnings if necessary.

“However, any potential tsunami would travel quickly to the surrounding islands. Therefore, residents of the Manuʻa islands and elsewhere in American Samoa would probably see the tsunami before receiving any official warning.

“If you are at the coast and feel a strong or long earthquake, see a sudden rise or fall of the ocean, or hear a loud roar from the ocean, a tsunami may follow. Immediately move to higher ground.”

According to the USGS American Samoa volcanoes are monitored remotely with satellite data and a distant seismic station from Apia, Samoa.

“These observations might detect significant explosive activity in American Samoa.

“Unfortunately, we cannot provide advanced warning of activity because there is currently an absence of more localized ground-based monitoring stations at the volcanoes.”