Reports up to 40 dead in Samoa
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
Tsunami warning downgraded
NEW Zealand Civil Defence has downgraded this morning's tsunami warning to a tsunami alert.
Its coastal sensors have detected the first tsunami wave from the Samoa earthquake, which is expected to hit New Zealand at just 40cm high.
However Auckland City Council warned a seismic wave of approximately one metre was expected to hit the city's coast at about 11.40am.
Civil Defence is still warning people to stay away from beaches and rivermouths as the first wave may not be the largest.
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An 'all clear' will be issued when it safe to return to coastal areas.
The quake in Samoa, measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale struck at 06.48am New Zealand time. It was centred 200 kilometres from Samoa's capital Apia at a depth of 35 kilometres.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center warned that the quake was likely to have generated a tsunami.
"It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicenter and could also be a threat to more distant coasts."
A 90cm wave reportedly hit Tolaga Bay on the East Cape this morning.
People staying at Matata Campground in the area have been moved up a hillside away from the water.
However, the tsunami appears not to have affected people in the Chatham Islands who have also been moved away from coastal areas to designated areas of higher ground.
Constable Owen Brunel said the time for the tsunami to hit had passed "and there has been no response from the sea at this stage".
The tsunami has prompted people to head to high ground around Whakatane and Opotiki to see the wave but nothing has arrived there either.
The estimated time of arrival of the tsunami on the east coast – 9.45am - has also passed a few moments ago without any significant waves.
But authorities have told those watching that any warning should stay in place for at least two hours.
A helicopter is flying along the Bay of Plenty coast warning people to keep away from the beaches.
Journalist Juliet Rowan says that fire and ambulance services in the Bay of Plenty seaside town of Pukehina have moved equipment to a local hilltop marae.
"They've taken all of the emergency vehicles up to the marae just to be ready in case anything serious happens," she said.
Warning sirens are sounding up the coast and the road out of town is busy with packed cars.
"It definitely looks like some people are evacuating," she said.
In Auckland, police are out on Tamaki Drive asking people to stay off the popular beaches in the area.
Auckland City Council has also advised residents of Great Barrier Island and Waiheke to move to higher ground between 10am and midday.