Quakes rock Solomon Islands

January 6, 2010 12:00 am

, MUNDA, Jan 6 – A string of fresh earthquakes rocked the western Solomon Islands late Tuesday and through Wednesday but there were no early reports of damage or casualties, officials said.

The largest earthquake late Tuesday had a magnitude of 6.8, followed by seven aftershocks measuring at least 5.0 in the isolated region about 300 kilometres (185 miles) west of the capital Honiara.

The latest tremors followed a series of quakes on Monday, with the largest of 7.2 causing a tsunami estimated at eight feet (nearly 2.5 metres).

The National Disaster Management Office estimated Tuesday that around 1,000 people — almost a third of the population — had been made homeless on Rendova island by the earthquake and tsunami damage.

Solomon Islands police commissioner Peter Marshall told Radio New Zealand Wednesday that no fresh damage had been reported from the 6.8 quake, which the US Geological Service had earlier measured at 6.9.

"We feel we would have heard by now if had that been the case. We have people on the ground up there," Marshall said.

"There have been no reports of any additional injuries, damage or deaths."

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Derek Sikua visited the affected area Wednesday amid criticisms that the distribution of aid had been slow.

"I don\\\’t want this operation to be handicapped by lack of money. I have instructed the Ministry of Finance, money isn\\\’t a problem, go ahead and do what you have to do," Sikua told emergency workers in the regional centre of Munda.

There have been no deaths or major injuries reported from this week\\\’s swarm of quakes, which followed a tsunami in the same region in April 2007 that killed more than 50 people.

Residents said the quake prompted people in coastal areas to flee for higher ground, with the memories of the 2007 disaster still fresh.

Rendova island bore the brunt of Monday\\\’s quakes with some coastal areas inundated by the tsunami and hillsides scarred by large landslides.

One of the worst affected villages on the island was Ratova where 11 houses were washed away in the tsunami, leaving at least 30 people homeless, officials said.

The numerous landslides had also disrupted water supplies to villages on the island, where rice was being distributed to residents Wednesday.

On the nearby largely uninhabited island of Tetepare, 10 foreign holidaymakers were evacuated from an eco-tourism centre on Monday. None was reported hurt.


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