Wellington school teacher Charlie Pierce recounts harrowing survival.
Amongst the devastation and the tragic loss of life, there are also remarkable survival stories emerging out of the tragedy in Samoa.
Wellington School teacher Charlie Pearse says she was trapped underwater, thinking there was no hope of making it out alive after she was caught up in the tsunami that swept through Samoa on Wednesday morning.
More than 150 people have died, with many more presumed dead after an earthquake cause a tsunami to wash up on the island nation.
The New Zealand death toll is still presumed to be at three, with two confirmed dead and one missing presumed dead.
Pearse was one of the lucky ones, feeling the tsunami on a back of a truck with a group of children.
The truck was tossed into the trees and landed on top of them.
Pearse says many of the children that were next to her didn't make it out alive.
"We all went underwater and I think a number of the children died instantly because when I got my wits about me, I could feel loose limbs touching me," she says.
Her thoughts were with death. "I said lord if this is my time to come home, take me home, I'm ready, so I let my breath out and I took a big gulp of water, thinking this is how you do it and I don't know, I just popped out."
Former Miss Samoa Tui Annandale, wasn't one of the lucky ones.
Annandale and her husband Joe were having morning prayers at home in the village of Poutasi when the earthquake struck.
Annandale tried to flee the wave by car, but she was sucked out and drowned.
Tui's funeral, held on Wednesday night, was attended by Samoa's Prime Minister, the head of state and also former rugby player and relative, Peter Fatialofa.
Tui's friend Leiloa was on foot behind the car and miraculously lived.
"The wave picked me up and threw me into the church. I held onto the pillar until the water passed," she says.
The national hospital is barely able to cope with the hundreds of casualties, their top doctor saying the tragedy is unprecedented.
"We have never seen so much devastation...so many dead people," says Doctor Limbo Fiu.
A New Zealand medical team on the ground is expected to make a difference but a likely rise in the death toll is pushing hospital limits.
"We have currently a standby refrigerator that now is being used to cater for the decomposed bodies," says Limbo.
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