1,000 People Homeless on Solomons after Tsunami

By: AP News Now & Ray Lilley of Wellington, New Zealand - AP Writer
By: AP News Now & Ray Lilley of Wellington, New Zealand - AP Writer

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (AP) - Landslides and a tsunami
destroyed the homes of about one-third of the population on a
Solomon Island, but lives were likely spared as residents with
memories of previous disasters fled quickly to higher ground,
officials said Tuesday.

From the air, extensive damage could be seen on a remote western
island after a 7.2-magnitude temblor triggered the landslides in
the Pacific Solomon Islands on Monday, said disaster management
office director Loti Yates.

No injuries have been reported some 30 hours after the biggest
in a series of quakes churned a tsunami wave that was up to 10 feet
(3 meters) high as it plowed into the coast, officials said.

However, more than 1,000 people have been affected after some
200 houses were destroyed on Rendova, an island some 190 miles (300
kilometers) from the capital Honiara. Only 3,600 people live on
Rendova.

Photographs taken from police helicopters Tuesday showed debris
lining the foreshore and damaged houses on the coasts of Rendova
and Tetepare, as well as deep scars on hills and cliffs caused by
landslides.

Yates said some 200 households were taking shelter in emergency
centers on Rendova.

Hillsides crashed down and the tsunami inundated homes Monday,
but residents' memories of earlier disasters probably helped
prevent any casualties, officials and residents said.

In April 2007, an 8.1 temblor unleashed a tsunami that killed
more than 50 people. A quake-churned tsunami that killed more than
200 on nearby Samoa and Tonga in September was another reminder,
locals said.

"People are very sensitive, as a quake conjures up memories,
and people immediately begin going to higher ground," police
commissioner Peter Marshall told The Associated Press.

"The fact it was daylight, the isolated nature of the wave and
that the landslides were in a relatively sparsely populated area"
also helped, he said.

The largest quake - magnitude 7.2 - happened about 9:30 a.m.
local time Monday and caused the tsunami to hit the coast a short
time later.

Since then, at least a dozen other quakes greater than magnitude
5.0 have rocked the earthquake-prone region. The strongest, a
magnitude 6.9 aftershock, hit the nation's western region again
late Tuesday night and generated a tsunami about an inch high, but
there were no immediate reports of fresh damage and no reports of
injury.

In the provincial capital Gizo, dive shop owner Danny Kennedy
said the general rule is that "if there's anything more than 20
seconds of shaking or any sea water recedes, head for the hills."

A police boat patrolled Tuesday to check the coastline, where
many homes are at sea level, making them vulnerable to tsunamis,
National Disaster Management Office spokesman Julian Makaa said. No
casualties had been reported so far, he said.

One village, Retavo, home to about 20 people, was reportedly
completely inundated by a wall of sea water up to 10 feet (3
meters) high, but Makaa said no deaths or injuries had been
reported there.

Emergency food, water and tarpaulins were being shipped in.

The Solomon Islands lie on the "Ring of Fire" - an arc of
earthquake and volcanic zones that stretches around the Pacific Rim
and where about 90 percent of the world's quakes occur.


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