He did not provide any further details of the deaths but said there was a desperate need for emergency supplies in the affected area following the tsunami, which followed a 8.0 magnitude earthquake .

  

"What we desperately need now is water, tents, and food because almost 3,000 - 4,000 people are now living on the hill at Gizo," Lokopio said.

  

The residents of the town were still fearful as aftershocks continued to rock the area.

  

He said there was no warning of the tsunami which hit just minutes after the area was rocked by the initial quake at 7:40 am local time (20:40 GMT on Sunday).

  

"There wasn't any warning [of the tsunami]. This was a very sad thing because the warning was the earth tremors. It shook us very, very strongly and we were frightened.

  

"All of a sudden the sea was rising up so all the people living around the coastal area, they ran up on the hill."

  

He said most of the government buildings and businesses in the town were destroyed, along with houses in low-lying areas.

  

Millions of dollars would be needed to repair the damage caused by the tsunami and quake, Lokopio said.

 

 
Wiped out
 
The quake off the Solomons triggered
tsunami warnings over a wide area
Danny Kennedy, a dive shop owner and provincial politician in Gizo, told Reuters: "There are quite large boats sitting in the middle of the road. Many of the houses that were on stilts are sitting on the ground. A number of the coastal communities have been completely wiped out."
 
He said the hospital had been evacuated and patients had been taken to a doctor's house on higher ground, with more than 2,000 left homeless.
 
The National Disaster Management Office said up to 60 buildings had been destroyed including houses.
 
From the capital Honiara, Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corp. said residents on Simbo island had reported waves travelling up to 200m inland, damaging homes.
 
Geological agencies, including those in Australia and Japan, put the magnitude of the quake at 8.1 while the US Geological Survey revised its earlier estimate to 8.
 
The US Geological Survey said the quake struck about 10km beneath the sea floor about 350km northwest of the Solomons capital of Honiara at 7:39am on Monday (20:39 GMT on Sunday).
 
The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued a warning for Papua New Guinea and a lower-level "tsunami watch" for other places, including most South Pacific countries.
 
Beaches in Queensland and New South Wales on Australia's east coast were shut and some ferry services in Sydney were cancelled.