Toll climbs amid tremors

Reko Rennie

April 3, 2007 - 5:55PM

Thousands of people are seeking refuge in the highlands of Gizo island, after their homes were damaged or destroyed in the Solomon Islands tsunami yesterday.

As the death toll climbed to 28 this afternoon, a National Disaster Management Office spokeswoman said that number was expected to rise.

Solomons Island plice have released details of the damage and casualties in the Western Province.

More tremors

Earthquakes and tremors continued to rock the island of Gizo this morning, as 100 workers work to clear the local airfield for desperately needed food and supplies for the area's many homeless and hungry residents.

American Danny Kennedy, who has lived in Gizo for 22 years, lost his business, a dive shop, to the tsunami yesterday, but today is busy organising food rations and supplies for his family.

"The first part was dealing with it, now the second issue is actually dealing with all the humanitarian assistance that's required, so I haven't really slept, I had about three hours sleep last night," Mr Kennedy said.

As Mr Kennedy spoke to theage.com.au, another tremor stuck.

"There's another earthquake now just as we're speaking, the houses are rocking again so it hasn't stopped."

A Geoscience Australia spokesman told theage.com.au the reported earthquakes and tremors were to be expected after yesterday's 8.1-magnitude earthquake.

"They are aftershocks from the main event yesterday, in fact we've had 30 aftershocks that have been over a magnitude 5," the spokesman said.

Concerns for missing

Reports reaching police in Western Province have raised concerns for the safety of a number of people.

Mundo Village at Ranongga Island – 2 people unaccounted for, a land slide, four houses, the medical clinic, church and school destroyed.

Kokorata Village – all houses destroyed. Casualties unknown

Korovou Village , Shortland Islands – three police houses destroyed

Kinolea – no casualties but all houses destroyed

Harehare Village – All houses destroyed

Tiqe Village on Vangunu Island – residents are on high ground – no reports of casualty.

Marove Village – Several houses (exact number not known) destroyed – no reports of casualties.

Tapuri Village – 6 persons unaccounted for, all houses destroyed.

Lale Village – one person unaccounted for and the medical clinic and school have suffered severe damage.

Buri Village – 30 houses destroyed, several people injured.

Iriqila Village , Vella Island – ten houses destroyed, school and water supply damaged and two persons believed injured.

Vonunu Village – three houses destroyed.

Sambora Village – a seven year old child unaccounted for.

6.5-magnitude aftershock

"At 9.20am eastern standard time and we got that at 6.5 (magnitude) and that was an aftershock.''

Further aftershocks were likely, he said.

"Geoscience Australia continue to monitor the region very closely because they expect continued activity for a day or two following an event like this.

Thousands homeless

As the aftershocks rattled the island, Mr Kennedy estimated there were at least 3000 people left homeless.

"Basically every piece of plastic cover was utilised here in town and they slept under the stars last night . . . luckily it was a nice night.

"There's a lot of people displaced here in Gizo alone, probable about 3000 and there's going to be a lot more, there will be a lot more as things come to light.

"At the moment the three most important things (are) water, food and shelter . . . that's the first priority."

Airport blocked

Humanitarian aid is on the way, but the local airfield is needs to be cleared of debris.

"There's a work crew of about 100 people over on the airfield trying to clear the debris off the airfield so planes can start to land," Mr Kennedy told theage.com.au.

"And we understand that once that airfield is cleared and ready for landing there will be a number of military aircraft coming in here with humanitarian assistance and hopefully that will come in sometime today."

Yesterday trucks ferried injured from the local hospital to higher ground.
"The hospital is actually inoperable at the moment, because it's on the seaside . . . a number of the wards have collapsed and fallen in due to the earthquake and the small tsunami," Mr Kennedy said.

"There's a little temporary hospital made up in the hills that people are being treated and I understand that another four people are being medivaced out," Mr Kennedy said.

With thousands still on top of a hill above the township in Gizo, Mr Kennedy said many people are still terrified.

"Everybody is still on top of the hill, they're just starting to go back down. More people are starting to come down now," he said.

"The biggest task now is trying to find out who is 100 per cent homeless and who is up there just because they are scared and terrified but have something to go back to . . . that's what we're in the process of doing right now."

Death toll rises

The number confirmed dead has risen to 28 and the toll is expected to rise further, a National Disaster Management Office spokeswoman said this afternoon.

Two people have been listed as missing and seven as injured, but all these figures are expected to increase throughout the afternoon as more information is received from the battered villages.

"Some of the villages are quite difficult to contact - they don't have the proper facilities to pass on information and people are still on higher grounds," the spokeswoman for the National Disaster Management Office said.

"Assessment is still continuing, so we are expecting these figures to rise up during the course of the day."

theage.com.au, with agencies

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