Today marks 13 years since the deadly tsunami struck, leaving 149 deaths


On September 29, 2009, two large earthquakes struck midway between Samoa and American Samoa, a U.S. territory. 

The earthquakes generated tsunami waves of up to 22 meters (72 feet) that engulfed the shores, Samoa suffered the worst with 149 deaths, while American Samoa and Tonga lost 31 and nine lives respectively.

The devastation extended beyond human casualties with houses destroyed, cars swept out to sea and some villages being virtually annihilated. 

With over $200 million dollars in damages, the islands were ravaged both physically and economically.

The deadly 2009 tsunami was triggered by at least two separate earthquakes occurring within 2–3 minutes of each other near the Tonga Trench, one of the most seismically active areas in the world, which was an extremely rare event, known as a “doublet.” 

Since the earthquakes occurred so close in time, scientists have not been able to distinguish which earthquake occurred first or which caused a bigger tsunami. However, the events of September 29 involved a magnitude 8.1 earthquake on a normal fault within the outer rise; and the other magnitude 8.0 earthquake occurred on the subduction zone as a thrust event.