What follows is an email received from Bishop Terry Brown of the Anglican diocese of Malaita in the Solomon Islands where a powerful earthquake and tsunami occurred last weekend. His note indicates that both the damage and the death toll are substantially higher than reported by the western media. Bishop Brown is a former mission coordinator for the Partnerships department of General Synod.
I have had many messages of concern, so this is simply a note to let your know that we are all right. There was only a small tremor here Monday morning and no wave, despite a tsunami warning. I am sure the many intervening islands between here and Western and Choiseul Provinces meant that we were unaffected. (Malaita is off the “rim of fire” fault line and geologically old seabed mountain range. However, the west coast of Malaita, including Auki, is very vulnerable should there be major earthquakes on Guadalcanal or Makira, who are on the fault line.) However, the situation in the West is extremely serious with earthquakes continuing frequently (some 30 since Monday); another at 6.1 just hit a couple hours ago and there are fears of more tsunamis. It is an extremely unstable part of the earth geologically at the moment. (See http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsww/)
The death toll has reached about 30. Lower Gizo is very badly damaged and the whole area has suffered earthquake damage apart from the tsunami. Thousands are homeless and without food. The tsunami also extended to Papua New Guinea where there were apparently also deaths. As reports come in from remote seaside villages in Choiseul and the Shortlands, the toll will continue to rise. Assessment and relief teams have arrived and some things are being distributed. However the continuing earthquakes and tsunami fears are slowing things down. A United Church bishop on Simbo and some of the congregation were killed when a wave hit an ordination service being held in a church near the seaside.
There are still a lot of Malaita people in the West, so people here are worried about their friends and relations. Already my Episcopal Discretionary Fund is stretched by family members who want to travel to the West to see their injured relatives. There are not very many Anglicans in the two provinces (they are mostly United Church [Methodist], Roman Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist and Christian Fellowship Church) but there are small Anglican congregations at Gizo and Taro (Choiseul provincial capital), part of the Diocese of Ysabel. I am sure the Anglican church in Gizo was flooded (but I hope not washed away). The Catholic Cathedral in Gizo was very badly damaged. The “slideshow” on the Yahoo home page world news has many pictures.
Please keep the people of Western and Choiseul Provinces in the Solomons, and Bougainville, Milne Bay and the New Guinea (PNG) islands in your prayers, as well as those helping in relief efforts. We pray too that the earth and sea will settle down.
Have a blessed Easter,
(Bishop Terry Brown)
- The Solomon Star, the principal newspaper in the Solomon Islands based in the capital, Honiara, has been covering the earthquake and tsunami extensively.
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