6.2 aftershock in Solomons as death toll rises
NICOLE PRYOR AND AGENCIES
An earthquake with a preliminary 6.2 magnitude has struck near the Solomon Islands this evening, the US Geological Survey says, the latest in a series of aftershocks following a major tremor that sparked a tsunami which killed at least nine people.
The latest quake was measured 10 km deep, 362 km east southeast of Kira Kira, near the epicentre of the 8.0 magnitude quake that hit yesterday.
There was no immediate tsunami warning or word of any further damage in the remote region.
The Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Office has confirmed nine people died in the tsunami yesterday, including a child who was swept out to sea, and about 100 homes are believed to have been destroyed.
A spokesman for the Solomon Islands prime minister, George Herming, said the 1.5 metre waves that roared into Santa Cruz Island on Wednesday were too fast to outrun for some villagers.
Among the dead was a group of five elderly people and a child who were unable to escape.
Solomon Islands authorities said it was hard to assess the damage caused to the island nation, but said several villages were believed badly damaged or destroyed.
"It is too early to have a clear picture of the damage caused," the nation's disaster management office said.
"The high number of aftershocks and the difficulties inherent in accessing Temotu makes gathering swift accurate information a challenge.
"The concern is for the more remote areas of Temotu where no reports have been forthcoming thus far."
Herming said several other people were missing today and strong aftershocks were keeping frightened villagers from returning to the coast.
Planes are not yet able to bring relief to the tsunami and earthquake-hit Solomon Islands because of damage to an airport inundated by tsunami surges.
Sipuru Rove, a spokesperson from the National Disaster Management Office in Honiara, said the relief effort was hindered by debris at Lata airport.
"We will not be able to put a plane to the disaster site because the runway is still full of debris," he said.
"We have to clear away the debris, enough space for the plane to land. Then we will fly."
He said two boats would be sent to the area later this morning, carrying medical supplies, water containers, food, bottled water, and clothing.
Rove said he had received reports overnight that the public water system in the affected area was either damaged or destroyed, so many did not have access to clean water.
He said the disaster office would take a team of about 20 people, including doctors and nurses, to the area.
Though the assessment of the damage was still underway, Rove said four schools had been destroyed and more than 400 households destroyed or damaged.
NEW ZEALAND RESPONDS
In Wellington today, Prime Minister John Key said the New Zealand Government was in touch with Solomon Islands authorities, but as yet had received no formal request for help.
"Obviously they've been affected. I'm not fully aware of all of the devastation that's taken place as a result of the tsunami," Key said.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully said New Zealand would give $200,000 in emergency assistance to the Solomon Islands.
Additional assistance would be considered in due course. The money would be for humanitarian supplies and support to the Solomon Islands Government assessment teams.
"The earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which hit the remote Temotu Province, caused damage to a number of homes, and sadly there are reports that lives have been lost," McCully said.
"Due to the remoteness of the area it might take some time for the Solomon Islands Government and relief agencies to gain a full picture of the damage."
* Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the airport damage was at Honiara. It was at Lata.