Solomon Islands appeals for aid after tsunami

Updated 7 February 2013, 21:27 AEST

New Zealand Correspondent Dominique Schwartz, and staff

Authorities in the Solomon Islands which was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami are appealing for urgent aid from the Australian Government.

Authorities in the Solomon Islands which was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami are appealing for urgent aid from the Australian Government.

The 8.0-magnitude quake struck near the Santa Cruz islands on Wednesday, and triggered a one metre high tsunami that travelled half a kilometre inland.

A spokesperson from the Disaster Management Office in the Solomon Islands says nine people have died and two are missing.

World Vision estimates that 700 houses have been damaged or destroyed, and more than 3,500 people have been affected.

The Premier of Temotu Province, Charles Brown Beu, says assessment teams have reported that six villages have virtually been wiped out.

He says basic aid is desperately needed.

“Everything they own has been lost,” he told the Australia Network.

“Clothes, pots and plates and everything else, household goods, even money that was kept in the houses. No chance to retrieve these things. So it’s clothing, it’s cooking utensils, it’s water, and it’s food.”

The Governor-General of the Solomon Islands says Queen Elizabeth is saddened to hear of the death and destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

His Excellency Sir Frank Kabui says Queen Elizabeth’s prayers and thoughts are with all those affected.

Strong aftershocks

Meanwhile, the US Geological Survey says a series of aftershocks have rattled the Solomon Islands since Wednesday’s 8.0-magnitude quake.

Irene Scott, an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development in Honiara, says many people in Temotu province are choosing to stay on higher ground.

“Last night the count was up to 30 or 40 aftershocks,” she said.

“There was one at 5.15 this morning that was still 4.9 so for them, it’s not yet stable ground in Temotu.

“I think a lot of people are choosing to stay on high ground and maybe wait until that’s calmed down before they come down from the hills and assess what might have happened to them.”

Australian assistance

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr says Australia stands ready to help with the relief effort.

“We’re ready to offer assistance which would include emergency food and shelter, medical supplies and help with reconstruction,” he said.

Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, says an Australian hercules aircraft has flown over the devastated area.

“This is the better part of 700 nautical miles from Honiara itself. It’s actually closer to Vanuatu than it is to Honiara,” Mr Marles said.

“And there are going to be remote villages there, that it’s going to take some time to get to, and until we get to them we’re not actually going to know what the full extent of injury and loss of life is.

“We’re working very closely with the Solomon Islands, we’re trying as best we can to get the information, as indeed they are. s soon as we’re in that position we’ll be providing that assistance.”

World Vision says the full extent of the damage is yet to be assessed with debris and high water levels cutting off access to some areas.

Emergency response

The Provincial Disaster Officer on Santa Cruz island, Frank Menoia, says the runway on the island has now been cleared.

He says a plane carrying emergency teams and supplies is scheduled to arrive early Friday morning.

A boat has left the capital Honiara on Thursday to take emergency supplies to Lata, and is expected to reach the disaster zone on Saturday.

The Solomons National Disaster Management Office says an aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force has been deployed to provide an aerial survey of the damage.

World Vision says the full extent of the damage is yet to be assessed with debris and high water levels cutting off access to some areas.

Solomon Islands director, Andrew Catford, says the immediate health concern is the spread of disease.

“There’s quite a bit of livestock, chicken and pigs and fish are sort of strewn, particularly in these five communities,” he said.

“So obviously you don’t want to leave that there for too long given health issues so that’s one of the immediate tasks this morning to clear that up.”


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