Tsunami destroys 13 villages, over 20 killed in Solomon Islands
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Thirteen villages were destroyed when a
tsunami spawned by a huge earthquake slammed into the Solomon Islands,
killing at least 20 people and leaving many more missing, police said
The government declared a state of emergency following Monday's
tsunami, generated by an 8.0-magnitude quake off the islands' west
coast, as officials warned the death toll would rise further as extent
of the devastation emerged.
Rescuers raced to the remote disaster area by plane and boat to help
victims and assess the loss of life and property. Witnesses reported
bodies floating in the sea after waves up to five meters (16.5 feet)
high smashed the islands.
As many as 4,000 terrified survivors huddled on hills overlooking the
shattered resort town of Gizo as repeated aftershocks with magnitudes of
up to 6.7 shook the area violently throughout the night, provincial
As day broke, the level of destruction began to emerge from the
Western Province and Gizo, just 40 kilometers (25 miles) away from the
Solomon Islands police spokesman Mick Spinks said that 13 coastal
villages had been reported destroyed, confirming earlier official
reports that entire communities had been wiped out.
"Virtually all the houses have been destroyed" in the affected
villages, he told AFP as authorities warned the public to brace for more
"We are now of a view that here are about 20 confirmed dead overall,
but I am rather fearful that the number will increase today as we get
around the various locations," said Deputy Police Commissioner Peter
He said "many more" people were missing, while Sky news in Australia
reported that hundreds of people remained unaccounted for. The
government information service Tuesday quoted a former Solomon Islands
governor-general, Sir Moses Pitakaka, saying from Gizo that thousands
were homeless there after Monday's quake-spawned tsunami.
Pitakaka said thousands more were likely to have lost their homes in
other affected areas in the west of the impoverished South Pacific
The Solomon Islands Red Cross estimated approximately 2,000 people,
or 10 percent of Gizo's population, were now homeless. Some 500 houses
may have been damaged or destroyed.
Preliminary reports from other islands suggest similar or worse
levels of damage, the government said in a statement.
The disaster rekindled memories of the Asian tsunami catastrophe of
December 2004, which killed 220,000 people.
The Solomons Island Disaster Council coordinator Julian Makaa told
the Australian Boradcasting Corporation that 916 houses were destroyed
and more than 5,000 people were affected, according to the latest
"The main number of the deaths were in Gizo, where a number of
villages were affected," Marshall said, referring to the seaside
community of around 20,000 people which is popular with scuba divers.
"It's been a long night for a lot of people, in the area of Gizo in
particular. There is no electricity and there have been a lot of tremors
overnight and people have had to move to higher ground," he said.
Solomon Island police and members of an Australian-led regional
peacekeeping force were planning to overfly the western islands Tuesday
to get an accurate impression of the death and destruction.
"There are many, many little islands up there and you just don't know
how many people are resident of the islands," Spinks said.
The US Geological Survey recorded at least 10 quakes measuring
between 5.0 and 6.2 in magnitude overnight, further rattling thousands
of survivors in Gizo who were either left homeless or who were too
scared to remain indoors.
"My heart goes out to all of you in this very trying time," Prime
Minister Manasseh Sogavare said in an address to the impoverished South
Pacific nation late Monday. He also warned the death toll would probably
rise. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre on Monday issued a regionwide
warning immediately after the quake, stretching as far as Japan, but
only the Solomons was seriously affected.
Solomon Islands, Tuesday, AFP.