DIANA MAVUNDUSE (WITH NOTES FROM VARIOUS MEDIA SOURCES)
An earthquake measuring 8.1 struck 345 km northwest of the Solomon Islands’ capital Honiara at 07:40 local time Monday (20:40 GMT Sunday). The powerful earthquake caused a tsunami and there have been reports of damage and death in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
Media reports put the number of death in the Solomon Islands at 12, though numbers are expected to increase. Others are reporting of serious devastation that some villages have been “completely wiped out”.
The Solomon Islands has a population of about 500,000 people – many of them living on remote and widely scattered islands. Many people live in houses made of palm and bamboo on the islands’ beaches. Gizo, a small fishing town and diving centre on Ghizo Island, was only 45km (25 miles) from the epicentre. Witnesses described the water reaching 50-70 metres (164-230 feet) inland on Ghizo.
In a short email sent to Church House staff today, Bishop Terry Brown from the Anglican Church in the Diocese of Maliata, reported that, “We are all fine, only a small tremor this morning. But the news from Western and Choiseul provinces is not good. Gizo residents generally got up to the hill before the tsunami hit… villages on the sea coast were swept away, also a United Church bishop was killed. Death toll is 12 and rising. The earthquakes are continuing,” said Bishop Brown.
Action by Churches Together (ACT) International through which PWRDF responds to worldwide emergencies, has no members currently listed in the Solomon Islands. “We are currently trying to contact the World Council of Churches (WCC) offices based in Fiji and the Papua New Guinea Council of Churches who are the nearest members to the affected area,” said Callie Long, ACT International Communications Coordinator.
The Solomon Islands Government through the Disaster Management Council and other agencies have arranged for the immediate dispatching of tents, food and water.
UNICEF has pre-positioned emergency medical supplies in the Solomon Islands for up to 10,000 people. The local Red Cross is carrying out an initial distribution of First Aid kits in Gizo town and has dispatched a boat containing tents.
PWRDF is following the situation closely and also waiting for more information from ACT International. Once an ACT Appeal is issued, PWRDF will respond.
Diana Mavunduse is the communications coordinator for the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund.
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