9 Apr 2007

Additional medical personnel to be sent to Solomon Islands' Western Province

2:33 pm on 9 April 2007

The Solomon Islands government is sending another medical team to the Western Province to provide some relief for doctors and nurses who have been working long hours since the tsunami struck last week.

The government's director of communications, Alfred Maesulia, says many medical staff were themselves affected by the disaster and lost their homes.

He also says many people remain in temporary relief camps in the hills above Gizo and on higher land in the outer islands because they're worried about the possibility of another tsunami.

Health workers and NGOs are assisting with the digging of pit latrines to prevent an outbreak of disease while water purification tablets and water containers are now arriving at the camps.

Mr Maesulia says the medical team will leave Honiara tomorrow.

"We have doctors being sent out, deployed to the Western Province. And, there are also plans to send more medical personnel to the Western Province. I understand there is a team going out to Choiseul, not only doctors but we also have health workers to go and assist those people."

There are still difficulties in providing relief supplies to remote areas of Western Province in Solomon Islands which were badly hit by last week's earthquake and tsunami.

An aid worker in Gizo, Martin Thomas from World Vision, says many boats, which are the main means of transport, were damaged or destroyed, so only minimal aid has got through to outlying islands.

Mr Thomas says, however, that Gizo is well stocked with supplies and World Vision is sending out two teams to Simbo and Ranongga today.

They'll actually take some initial supplies, what they can, in terms of tools, in terms of mosquito nets, and some tarps. And, they'll start to set up the water and sanitation process there. We also have another supply or shipment of aid coming in today of rice and mosquito nets so that will probably come in too late ti get to these camps but they'll certainly be distributed and organised to get out to the camps here.

Mr Thomas says it may be months before people come down from relief camps in the hills surrounding Gizo.

The official death toll stands at 39 and the government says 29 others are still missing.