Five dead as Solomons quake sparks Pacific tsunami
HONIARA (AFP) – A major 8.0 magnitude earthquake jolted the Solomon Islands Wednesday with small tsunami waves buffeting Pacific coasts, leaving at least five people dead and dozens of homes damaged or destroyed.
A quake-generated wave of just under one metre reached parts of the Solomons, and Vanuatu and New Caledonia also reported rising sea levels, before a region-wide tsunami alert was lifted.
Sirens were heard in Fiji, locals said. “Chaos in the streets of Suva as everyone tries to avoid the tsunami!!” tweeted Ratu Nemani Tebana from the Fiji capital.
Japan, which was hit by a huge tsunami in March 2011 that killed more than 19,000 people, was also on edge for a time with the national weather agency warning that a minor tsunami could come ashore. Only small waves were detected.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre cancelled its regional alert for Pacific-island nations at 0350 GMT, about two and a half hours after the powerful quake struck at 0112 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 United Nations Office for the Coordination 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 AFP.
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,” Lilo’s spokesman 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.”