7 Feb 2013

Solomons disaster officials say up to 3,000 people displaced

1:24 pm on 7 February 2013

The Solomon Islands National Disaster Office says up to 3,000 people have been displaced from their homes by the magnitude 8.0 earthquake and tsunami yesterday.

The police say at least six people are dead and three others injured following the earthquake and tsunami.

A spokesman for the office, Sipuru Rove, says people have gone to higher ground to try and find shelter.

He says the landing strip at the airport is covered in logs brought in by the tsunami and heavy machinery will be needed to clear it before it can be used to fly in assistance.

He says a patrol boat with supplies and medical personnel will leave for Temotu Province from Honiara later this morning.

"From our recent information from the field there is an estimate of around 431 households or houses been destroyed by either damage or destroyed by the tsunami. And we have reports of six people dead and four still missing."

Sipuru Rove says one child and two elderly people are among the dead.

The acting permanent secretary responsible for National Disaster, Channel Iroi, confirms the deaths are from Nela, Luova, Bimbir,Venga and Malo villages on Santa Cruz.

The police commander John Lansley says because Temotu province is quite isolated it could take a couple of days before they fully understand the extent of the damage.

It is a significant distance from where the resources are kept, we do have preparatory resources already on the islands because this type of situation has been predicted as a possibility in the past but the major response will take some time.

The 8.0 magnitude undersea earthquake off Solomon's sparked a tsunami warning for several Pacific island nations which was later cancelled.

Meanwhile, the Solomon Islands prime minister Gordon Darcy Lilo has expressed condolences to the families of the victims of the tsunami.

SIBC reports Mr Lilo has also assured those in Temotu that emergency supplies will be swiftly flown to the affected areas.

The prime minister says once the urgent response to those affected by the disaster are addressed, the government will then look at the damage to infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the Honiara based director of the aid agency, World Vision, Andrew Catford, says the island is vulnerable to natural disasters including tsunamis and cyclones.

The most accurate I heard was 91 centimetres sort of coming into this area which I should point out is very, very low lying, so a metre makes a big difference in that area, the runway is not much above that. These coastal communities are right on the beach so they can easily be affected.

Andrew Catford says the immediate needs of people on the island should be better known today once aid workers survey the damage.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key says the Government here is working with authorities in the Solomon Islands to see what assistance it can provide

Mr Key says the New Zealand Government has not been directly asked for any assistance as yet.

Well New Zealand is in touch with the Solomon Islands government and working them. My understanding is there has been a number of deaths up there as a result of the tsunami, six I think is the number that we have been informed of as this point, so obiviously we will be working with them on what support we can offer.

New Zealand's High Commissioner to Solomon Islands says government representatives of the two countries are meeting today to discuss aid and assistance following the earthquake and tsunami in Temotu Province.

Mark Ramsden says the province is remote and planes are unable to land due to the damaged airstrip.

He says Honiara's warning system and response to the earthquake was rapid but the people of Lata didn't have much time to avoid the impact of the tsunami due to the closeness of the quake's epicentre.

He says the donor meeting will clarify what is help is needed but there are still assessments going on.

New Zealand always stands ready to assist Pacific neighbours recover from natural disasters we've got a long and proud history of that..7

Mark Ramsden New Zealand's High Commissioner to Solomon Islands.