Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Solomon Islands Hit By Tsunami, Northern Afghanistan Rocked By Earthquake

Twelve people have been killed by a tsunami which hit the Solomon Islands on Monday. Early reports also indicate extensive damage, especially in Gizo, a town of 10,000 and the second largest town in the Solomons, which was swamped by waves said to be 10m (30ft) tall.

We have coverage from the BBC as well as the Scoop news service from New Zealand, which has this:
The Solomon Islands Government has issued this account:
"Waves crashed islands in the two provinces [Monday] morning after an earth tremor measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale hit.

"Reports from Gizo police said the lower lying areas in the tourist town of Gizo have been completely covered, while the nearby towns of Noro and Munda including surrounding villages continued to receive huge waves.

"The main wharf at Noro ports in Western Province is reported to have “cracked in the middle”, and the small wharf completely dismantled with all timbers washed away.

"The Noro cannery has been affected and all residents have been evacuated up the hills on the island.

"People reporting from rural email stations in the two provinces also reported continuous waves traveling at least 500 meters inland."
At least two people were confirmed dead and several others missing in Sasamunga village in South Choiseul as 10 meter waves move 500 meters inland, destroying villages, food gardens and domesticated animals and a hospital.

Choiseul Premier, Jackson Kiloe confirmed from Taro Island at midday today that 10 meter high waves continue to hit the Southern part of Choiseul Island.

He said people are now rushing inland to higher ground as fear griped the entire Western and Choiseul provinces after an earth quake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale hit the Western part of Solomon Islands at 7 am this morning.

Premier Jackson Kiloe described the sea changes on the western coast of Choiseul as “strangely frightening”.

He said the present sea activities involving huge rolling waves which repeatedly caused dry seas deeper into the ocean have exposed fish and other marine lives.

He said the earth quake that hit the Western Solomon’s this morning was strongly felt twice in Choiseul province.

“We are currently evacuating Taro Island residents and others in coastal areas to higher ground.

“The huge wave rolls are stronger than floods.

“They are causing large areas of ocean to dry up exposing fish and other marine lives,” Mr Kiloe said by phone from Taro Island.

Radio New Zealand International reports: In Solomons Islands there are reports of damage in the township of Gizo and the whereabouts of several people is unknown after this morning’s earthquake. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii put the strength of the earthquake at 7.8 but Geosience Australia has upgraded the quake to 8.1.
Here's a slightly different sort of report from the BBC:

Gizo at centre of tsunami fears
When a magnitude 8.0 tsunami crashed ashore on the western Solomon Islands, it hit a remote, poverty-stricken region.

Made up of volcanic islands and coral atolls, sitting on the notorious Pacific "Ring of Fire", the area is so isolated that even many hours after the disaster, it was still very difficult to assess the extent of the damage or the number of people who lost their lives.

But there were reports of extensive damage to Gizo, the second largest town in the Solomons, which has an estimated 10,000 residents.

Known to tourists as the country's main diving centre, much of the town - which is located on a relatively small volcanic island called Ghizo - is barely above sea level.

Many of the houses are on or near the seafront, giving the buildings little chance of escaping the huge waves that hit the coastline on Tuesday morning.

Initial reports said the town's hospital had been inundated with water, and government offices had also been damaged. Little was known about the damage to the nearby coral reefs.

Thousands of people are thought to have escaped up a steep hill which forms a backdrop to the town.

According to the charity World Vision, which operates in the area, many people have now been left homeless and without clean drinking water, as many of the town's water tanks - based on the hill - collapsed due to the force of the earthquake.

Residents of nearby Simbo, Choiseul and Ranunga islands have also reported deaths and widespread destruction, and there are many other areas which could well have been affected although details are still sketchy.

Approximately 85% of the Solomons' 500,000 population live in rural areas, and the western province - where the disaster occurred - is one of the most remote parts of the country.

Receiving accurate information from villages - many of which are in low-lying coastal areas - is difficult at the best of times, mostly reliant on two-way radio links and satellite communications.
Scoop has considerably more, including these links ...
World Vision International - World Vision to help in Solomons after tsunami
Caritas - Caritas responds to those affected by tsunami
ChildFund - Solomon Islands Tsunami
Oxfam - Assessing needs of communities affected by tsunami
Elsewhere, and even more recently, Quake strikes north Afghanistan
A strong earthquake has struck northern Afghanistan, shaking cities in neighbouring Pakistan and Kashmir.

Residents fled homes in Kabul, Jalalabad and Kashmir when the 6.2 magnitude quake struck in Afghanistan's Badakhshan province.

There is no word yet of any damage in the areas close to the epicentre.

The US Geological Survey said [it] was about 200km (125 miles) underground in the Hindu Kush.

It struck at around 0800 (0300 GMT).
Relief efforts, as far as I can tell, are just getting organized.

If I may...

I've never asked for money here -- never asked for anything, actually, at least not for myself -- and I hope I won't have to. But I can't help thinking that, if you have any at the moment, you might consider helping some of the many very unfortunate people who have recently lost everything, in the Solomons or Afghanistan or elsewhere, somewhere, somehow.

Something tells me this would be a good week to re-connect with humanity, and that this might be a good way to do it.

Thank you very much indeed.