2 Apr 2007

Solomons government puts tsunami death toll at six

5:53 pm on 2 April 2007

The Solomon Islands government says that at least six people have been killed after a huge undersea earthquake in the country's west this morning.

The tsunami followed less than half an hour after an 8.1 earthquake hit at 7:39am Solomons time between Western Province and Choiseul province.

The wave washed away a number of buildings and property along the coastal areas, including the Choiseul village of the Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

A government spokesman Dr John Roughan says Choiseul province has been hit particularly hard, accounting for most of the confirmed deaths.

"There was one child it seems in Gizo town, which is in the western province that is the provincial capital, but the others were an older person an older woman was in her hut near the sea that was of course washed away she never had a chance. Fortunately it happened in bright sunshine. People could see the movement of the sea."

Aftershocks with a magnitude of up to 6.7 have been reported.

A resident of Gizo province, who witnessed the coast being hit by the tsunami, says a lot of people remain evacuated in the hills to stay safe.

Alexander, who works for the Catholic church in Gizo, says he was in a boat in the sea when the tsunami hit the province and he was able to watch the people run up to the hills.

It caused a lot of damage round this place, including a church one of the towers falls off, and even the town cord supply system, powers cut off at the moment, a lot of people are somewhere up in the hills but all the pigs in the sea, some houses have been floating, houses have been floating, boats are floating out.

The Solomon Islands government says in South Choiseul at least two people were killed and several others are missing following today's earthquake.

Choiseul Premier, Jackson Kiloe, says the village of Sasamunga was hit by 10 meter waves that moved 500 meters inland, destroying houses, food gardens.

He says the hospital was also destroyed.

Mr Kiloe says high waves continued to hit the Southern part of Choiseul.

He said villagers from Nukiki, Zepa and Luta are still searching for missing relatives.