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Rescuers bid to reach tsunami-hit Solomons

At least nine people reported killed by tidal wave as aftershocks continue to hit South Pacific archipelago.
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2013 12:17
The island's airstrip was also closed because of debris on the runway, but is expected to reopen on Friday [Reuters]

Disaster relief agencies have been struggling to reach remote tsunami-hit villages in the Solomon Islands, as aftershocks continued to rattle the South Pacific archipelago after a powerful 8.0-magnitude quake.

"I'm currently walking through one community and I'm knee-deep in water"

- Jeremiah Tabua,
World Vision emergency co-ordinator

At least nine people were said to have been killed after Wednesday's quake generated a wave that engulfed coastal communities on Ndende island in the eastern Solomons and triggered warnings of a more widespread tsunami that was later lifted.

Aid agency World Vision said the force of the surging water shunted some houses 10 metres back from the coast in the Ndende town of Venga and almost all the homes in Nela village were washed away.

"I'm currently walking through one community and I'm knee-deep in water," World Vision emergency co-ordinator Jeremiah Tabua said. "I can see a number of houses that have been swept away by the surge."

The national disaster management office said it had no clear picture of the scale of destruction on the isolated island, more than 600km from the capital Honiara.

"Some of the remote communities we haven't heard back from yet, it's very difficult to get information," office spokesman Sipulu Rove told AFP news agency.

'Communities damaged'

He said local officials were trying to check on the villages but the process could take days, as roads had been blocked by landslides and telecommunications was poor or non-existent.

The stricken island's airstrip was also closed because of debris on the runway, preventing planes carrying relief supplies from landing and thwarting plans to send reconnaissance flights over the disaster zone.

 

Officials said about 460 houses had been destroyed leaving some 3,000 people homeless, with many villagers fleeing for higher ground.

Red Cross disaster manager Cameron Vudi said the death toll was likely to rise as reports filtered in from isolated communities.

"We're expecting changes. There are signs that there might be increases in the number of casualties," he told AFP.

"There are still reports coming in. Most of the reports are confined to areas that are accessible by road but there are a lot more communities that have been damaged."

Rove said the airstrip was expected to reopen on Friday and the Solomons government had asked the Royal Australian Air Force to send a plane to survey damage.

Boats carrying medical teams and emergency supplies such as tarpaulins, fresh water, food and clothing were set to depart Honiara for Ndende on Thursday but are not expected to reach the island until the weekend.

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Source:
Agencies
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