Eight Dead in Solomon Islands After Quake, Agency Says

Eight people were killed when a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 8.0 off-shore earthquake hit the Solomon Islands yesterday, according to the aid organization World Vision.

More than 70 aftershocks, including a magnitude 7.0 quake, followed the main temblor which struck yesterday at 12:12 p.m. local time, 81 kilometers (50 miles) west of Lata, at a depth of 5.8 kilometers, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

There’s still “a little bit of nervousness,” among the 4,000 residents of Lata, some of whom spent the night in the hills, or in emergency shelters set up at a school and a local church, Andrew Catford, World Vision’s country coordinator in the Solomon Islands, said in a phone interview today from the capital, Honiara. The organization has 20 people in Lata.

“Is this a lead up to something else?” is the main concern of the residents, he said.

The airport at Lata, the provincial capital, remained closed today after being flooded, preventing aid organizations from bringing in supplies. There is currently no running water and no power in Lata, Catford said.

“We hope to reach some of the most remote communities by boat,” he said.

A wave measuring 91 centimeters (3 feet) in height was recorded at Lata Wharf, near the epicenter, and an 11-centimeter wave was recorded in Luganville, Vanuatu, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported yesterday. Tsunami warnings for several nations in the region, including Nauru, Fiji and New Caledonia were later canceled.

Homes Destroyed

The sea surge destroyed, or severely damaged, more than 100 homes, according to World Vision. Government and aid officials haven’t been able to contact people on low-lying, heavily populated, atolls that may have been in the path of the tsunami, Catford said.

The surge also washed up deep-sea fish and killed livestock on shore and the area needs to be cleaned up for health reasons, Catford said.

The Solomon Islands archipelago, about 2,500 kilometers east of Australia, lies in the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and experiences frequent seismic tremors. About 50 people were killed and more than 5,000 left homeless there after an 8.1-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami in April 2007.

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