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Deadly tsunami hits Solomon Islands

At least five people killed after 8.0-earthquake struck near Santa Cruz islands, triggering warnings across Pacific.
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2013 22:15
Jono Hutchison, reporter for TV3 New Zealand, told Al Jazeera there was a 'potential marine threat, no threat to land'

A powerful 8.0-magnitude earthquake has set off a tsunami that killed at least five people in a remote part of the Solomon Islands, triggering evacuations across the South Pacific as island nations issued tsunami alerts.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre cancelled its regional alert for Pacific-island nations at 03:50 GMT on Wednesday, about two and a half hours after the powerful quake struck at 01:12 GMT near the Santa Cruz islands in the Solomons.

Australian and US monitors said a tsunami wave measuring 91 centimetres washed into the town of Lata, on the main Santa Cruz island of Ndende. The wave also reached parts of Vanuatu and New Caledonia, a 40 centimetre tsunami hit as far away as Japan's Hachijo Island, about 290km south of Tokyo.

The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the wave appeared to have travelled 500 metres inland, inundating Lata's airstrip as well as surrounding villages, flattening many traditional houses.

"We can report five dead and three injured. One of the dead was a male child, three were elderly women and one an elderly man," Chris Rogers, a nurse at Lata Hospital, told the AFP news agency.

'Waves crashing'

Solomons Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo's office said four villages on the Santa Cruz Islands had been hit by the tsunami.

"Latest reports suggest that between 60 to 70 homes have been damaged by waves crashing into at least four villages on Santa Cruz Islands"

- George Herming, spokesperson

"Latest reports suggest that between 60 to 70 homes have been damaged by waves crashing into at least four villages on Santa Cruz Islands," Lilo's spokesperson George Herming told AFP.

"At this stage, authorities are still trying to establish the exact number and extent of damage. Communication to [the] Santa Cruz Islands is difficult due to the remoteness of the islands."

Solomon Islands Red Cross secretary-general Joanne Zoleveke said she had been told at least three villages were hit, with houses washed away.

"In the Solomon Islands when we talk about villages there can be anything from 10 to 30 houses," she said.

With Lata's airstrip out of commission, officials were hoping to fly over the area early Thursday to assess the damage better.

Lata Hospital director of nursing Augustine Bilve said some patients were evacuated to higher ground to prepare for any injured from the villages along the coast.

Settlements did not appear to be seriously damaged in the quake, he said, but added: "We were told that after the shaking, waves came to the villages."

The US Geological Survey said the quake struck the Santa Cruz Islands, which have been rocked by a series of strong tremors over the past week, at a depth of 28.7 kilometres.

About 20 aftershocks were recorded, including one at 6.6-magnitude.

'Ring of Fire'

"Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated," the Hawaii-based Pacific warning centre said after the 8.0 quake, before lifting its tsunami alert for several island nations.

Lata Hospital director of nursing Augustine Bilve said some patients were evacuated to higher ground to prepare for any injured from the villages along the coast.

Settlements did not appear to be seriously damaged in the quake, he said, but added: "We were told that after the shaking, waves came to the villages."

In 2007, a tsunami following an 8.0-magnitude earthquake killed at least 52 people in the Solomons and left thousands homeless. The quake lifted an entire island and pushed out its shoreline by dozens of metres.

The Solomons are part of the "Ring of Fire", a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific that is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

In December 2004, a 9.3-magnitude quake off Indonesia triggered a catastrophic tsunami that killed 226,000 people around the Indian Ocean.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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