Coconut palm tree in Samoa

2009 Tsunami

On 29 September 2009, Samoa was hit by a devastating tsunami.

The wave, which also hit American Samoa and northern Tonga, was generated by a massive 8.1 magnitude undersea earthquake which struck at 6.48am local time and was felt widely in Samoa. The tsunami arrived less than 20 minutes later and saw all of Apia evacuated. 150 people were killed.

Southern and eastern areas of Upolu were hit the hardest, leaving thousands of people homeless, rendering villages and tourist resorts damaged, inaccessible or in many cases, destroyed entirely.

A long recovery


The effects of the tsunami on Samoans was long-lasting. In total, 862 buildings were destroyed, including 11 schools.


With 65% of the country’s income normally coming from tourism, millions of dollars was lost through large resorts being devastated. Other significant businesses like plantations were also lost.


International aid was essential to help Samoa rebuild its villages and its economy. Its recovery was swift, with many resorts back up and running by 2010 and 2011.


Today, life in Samoa is largely back to normal. But, there will always be a need for awareness about the risk of tsunami and measures to take, such as heading inland in the event of a significant earthquake or if a tsunami alert is given.


Extensive signage gives locals and visitors the best routes inland in the event of a tsunami.

What to do in a tsunami

If you are at the coast and experience any of the following:
  1. A strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a weak rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more.
  2. A sudden rise or fall in sea level.
  3. Loud and unusual noises from the sea.

> Move straight to high ground, or as far inland as you can.

Don't wait for official warnings

As a localised tsunami could arrive in minutes, there may not be time for an official warning. Recognise the natural warning signs and act quickly.

Get in the loop