Be alert to seismic activity: Met Office

Three earthquakes have been felt in Samoa in September so far as the Samoa Meteorological Office advises residents to remain prepared for the threat of more destructive seismic activity. 

Geologists warn the nation to be alert for tremors such as the 2009 tremor that devastated Samoa and American Samoa.

The Principal Scientific Officer with the Geophysics and Geoscience Division at the Met Office, Fuimaono Lameko Talia, said it was imperative that Samoans stay ready and prepare daily for an event such as the 2009 earthquake that triggered a tsunami.

As the 11th anniversary of the 2009 earthquake and tsunami nears, Fuimaono reminds us that there is no way to predict a quake like the 2009 quake.

“We have to stay ready and be prepared every day because we don’t know when we could be hit by a powerful tsunami like in 2009,” he said in response to questions from the Samoa Observer.

The Met Office documented a total of 103 earthquakes this month as of 22 September, 2021. Three were felt in Samoa, Fuimaono said.

The three September 2021 felt earthquakes occurred on 18 September (5.1 magnitude); 8 September (4.9 magnitude) and 5 September (4.7 magnitude).

None of the quakes generated a tsunami.

Last month, in August, there were 104 quakes recorded and two of those were felt in Samoa, he added.

“Most of these earthquakes occur near the Tongan trench because of its proximity to Samoa. The average number of felt earthquakes each month is two or three. In some months we have one earthquake and in other months we have about four or five,” said Fuimaono.

“Each time we detect an earthquake we alert the country so they will know of each earthquake that occurs.”

Over a period of year, from July of 2020 to June 2021, the Met Office’s Geophysics and Geoscience Division based in Mulinuu has recorded and analysed 1,796 earthquakes, he said.

Of those 1,796 quakes, 34 were felt in Samoa in that same time period, Fuimaono said.

The Met Office also alerts residents of the earthquakes that occur in other parts of the world such as New Zealand, Chile, China and Japan so they are aware of earthquakes every day.

“The reason we inform the public of earthquakes that occur in faraway places like New Zealand, Chile, China and Japan and other countries is so the people of our country know that the earth is shaking every day,” Fuimaono said.

“And not just that, it is because we monitor those earthquakes in case it triggers a tsunami that could affect Samoa. There are a lot of people on the internet who are frightened by earthquakes that do not affect Samoa. 

"Please stay tuned to the Meteorological Office to receive the correct information about how each earthquake affects (or does not affect) Samoa.”

Wednesday, 29 September, 2021 marks 11 years since an earthquake that measured an 8.3 magnitude on the Richter Scale struck south west of American Samoa, generating a large earthquake that killed 143 people in Samoa.

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