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Last Updated: Wednesday September 30 2009 13:21 GMT

Tsunami hit South Pacific islands

Tsunami hit South Pacific islands

Tsunami strikes South Pacific islands

A tsunami caused by a powerful earthquake beneath the Pacific Ocean has caused massive devastation on three islands in the South Pacific.

Entire villages have been wiped out as waves measuring four and a half metres struck Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga.

Reports say around 100 people have been killed in the disaster. Four foreigners are among the dead including a two-year-old British child.

American President Barack Obama has already sent rescue teams to help.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has offered to help in any way that might be needed.

Because the islands are only about a metre above sea level the waves have left thousands of people homeless.

Under the sea

The earthquake struck more than 30km below the South Pacific Ocean. The tremors, which lasted several minutes, shifted the sea bed.

This caused massive waves on the surface that moved away from the centre of the quake towards the three small islands.

The tsunami hit the area just minutes after the earthquake which meant there was no time for people to escape to higher ground.