Rescuers bid to reach tsunami-hit villages in Solomons
HONIARA (AFP) – Disaster relief agencies were struggling Thursday to reach remote tsunami-hit villages in the Solomon Islands, and warned the death toll following a powerful 8.0-magnitude quake is likely to rise.
At least six people were confirmed dead after Wednesday’s quake generated a wave that swamped 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 coordinator Jeremiah Tabua said. “I can see a number of houses that have been swept away by the surge.”
Unconfirmed reports said nine were killed and the national disaster management office said it had no clear picture of the scale of destruction on the isolated island, more than 600 kilometres 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.
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.