Honiara - Disaster relief agencies were scrambling on Thursday to reach tsunami-hit villages in the Solomon Islands, warning that the death toll after an 8.0-magnitude earthquake is likely to rise.
Officials said six people were confirmed dead after Wednesday’s quake generated a wave that swamped coastal communities on the island of Ndende in the eastern Solomons.
Aid agency World Vision said some houses in the town of Venga were shifted 10m by the force of the surging water and almost all the homes in Nela village were washed away.
“I’m walking through one community and I’m knee-deep in water,” World Vision emergency co-ordinator Jeremiah Tabua said.
The Solomon Islands Red Cross said the remoteness of the disaster zone, more than 600km from the capital Honiara, was hindering relief efforts, with the island’s airstrip closed because of debris on the runway.
Red Cross disaster manager Cameron Vudi said reconnaissance flights would be made over the island today to assess the scale of the damage. Initial reports indicated at least 460 homes had been destroyed.
The death toll stands at six, with four people missing, but a spokeswoman for World Vision Australia who has been liaising with colleagues in the disaster zone said it was believed at least eight people died.
The US Geological Survey said the quake struck beneath the sea about 76km west of Lata, Ndende’s main town, at a depth of 28.7km. It was followed by dozens of strong aftershocks of up to 7.0 magnitude.
The Solomons are part of the “Ring of Fire”, a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific that is subject to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. –