Sydney - A 6.6-magnitude aftershock rattled the Solomon Islands on Friday, hampering relief efforts to tsunami-ravaged villages and forcing the South Pacific nation’s prime minister to forgo a visit to the stricken area where nine deaths have been confirmed.
Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo was on a plane to the eastern Solomons to assess damage when the aftershock hit, said Silas Lilo, a spokesman for his office. The plane was forced to return to the capital Honiara.
Also aboard the 32-seater plane - the first to attempt to reach the island since the disaster - were shelter kits, water carriers, medical supplies and medical staff, said Andrew Catford, the Solomons country director for relief agency World Vision. The plane will try again to land on the island Friday afternoon, he said.
The 6.6-magnitude aftershock damaged roads on the island's main town of Lata and prevented aid workers already stationed there from reaching people on the coast, Catford said.
Catford said his agency now believes that 15 villages and about 6 000 people have been affected, many of them losing homes. Those estimates have risen from initial assessments, he said.
Five elderly villagers and a child who couldn't outrun the rushing water were killed, said George Herming, a spokesman for the prime minister. Three more bodies were found on Thursday, but Herming said details of how those victims died were not immediately available.
A boat carrying relief officials was expected to reach Santa Cruz by Friday evening, Herming said. - Sapa-AP.