Fresh quake near Tonga, tsunami toll nears 200
Grieving Samoans buried their dead in unmarked beachside graves on Thursday as the gruesome task of recovering bodies from villages destroyed by four tsunamis continued and an aftershock shook the region.
Some Samoans started rebuilding their South Pacific paradise, clearing debris from shattered homes, but others remained in nearby mountains, afraid to return to the coast for fear the ocean will again turn deadly.
A fresh, smaller quake at magnitude 6.3 rattled the region south of Tonga on Friday, said the U.S. Geological Service. Tonga is west of the international dateline and a day ahead of Samoa.
The confirmed death toll from Tuesday's tsunamis, caused by an 8 magnitude undersea quake, stood at 149 in Samoa, 31 on American Samoa and nine on neighboring Tonga.
Officials feared whole towns have been destroyed on outlying islands and hundreds of people remained missing.
Thousands of Samoans are homeless and hundreds injured. Many in the main hospital in the capital Apia have bruised faces and cuts on their arms and legs, scars from the deadly waves.
Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi was near tears on Wednesday night when he called on this tiny South Pacific island nation to rebuild.
"The winds have uttered their strength, earth has spoken their grief and the wave has scattered its strength," Tuilaepa said in the chiefly Samoan language.
Samoans are a deeply Christian people, but also an ancient Polynesian race with strong myths and legends about ancient gods linked to the ocean that surrounds them.