Updated at 3:27 p.m., Saturday, May 12, 2007
King Malietoa Tanumafili II of Samoa dead at 94
Associated PressPAGO PAGO, American Samoa King Malietoa Tanumafili II, one of the world's longest reigning monarchs, passed away at a hospital in Samoa, the prime minister's office said today. He was 94.
Malietoa sat on the Samoan throne ever since the country, which lies west of the U.S. territory of American Samoa, gained independence from New Zealand in 1962.
That made him the world's third-longest reigning living monarch after Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has reigned since 1946 and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who ascended the throne in 1952.
The king died Friday night at Tupua Tamasese National Hospital in Apia where he had been staying for about a week. Details on the cause of death were not immediately available.
Vaasatia Poloma Komiti, chief executive officer of the prime minister's office, announced the king's passing on state-run television.
The prime minister was expected to address the nation later yesterday, Komiti added.
In American Samoa, the governor said his staff briefed him on the king's death.
"I offer my condolence to the people and government of Samoa on the passing of His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili," said Gov. Togiola T.A. Tulafono. "May God guide the people of Samoa as they mourn his passing."
Malietoa visited China on a state visit in 1976, and traveled to West Germany, South Korea, Japan and the United Kingdom. He also traveled to Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, and Hawai'i, and attended the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Malietoa is survived by two sons and two daughters. His wife Lili Tunu passed away in 1986.
Samoa is a group of islands in the South Pacific about one-half of the way from Hawai'i to New Zealand. Home to 200,000 people, its total land area is slightly smaller than Rhode Island.
It lies to the west of American Samoa, which became a U.S. territory in 1900.