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Landslides and collapsed buildings in Solomons

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 9/12/2016

The Solomon Islands government has been told about 3,000 people are affected and 40 houses damaged in Solomon Islands following a 7.8 magnitude quake this morning.

Collapsed buildings and landslides in the quake-affected Makira & Ulawa province have also been reported.

The quake shook people from their beds at about 4:30am local time today, hitting about 70 kilometres off Kirakira - the capital of the province in the country's south.

Preliminary reports of damage from the National Disaster Management Office have been presented to Parliament by the Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Disaster Management & Meteorology, Samuel Manetoali.

Mr Manetoali said more reports were expected given the isolation and lack of communication with communities along Makira Island's west coast

Disaster authorities who are preparing an emergency response are waiting on the results of an aerial survey carried out this morning by helicopter.

The country director for World Vision in the Solomon Islands, Janes Ginting said his staff are awaiting advice from the National Disaster Management Office so they can begin distribution of prepositioned disaster kits from the provincial capital Kira Kira.

"So the first 24 hours is very important to check the fatalities and as much as opposible to do a rapid assessment to understand the severity of the damage and from there we see the need," he said.

But a typical response for the earthquake is really to provide some, what we call non-food items, because my understanding is if people are moving to higher ground they're probably staying in temporary shelter in the inland forest."

However Mr Ginting said it would not be an easy job getting out to affected communities.

A nurse at Ngarigohu Clinic in South, Arosi Hedson Taro, said initially the sea rose and pulled canoes out to sea and has since continued to surge in and out leaving coral reefs completely exposed between surges.

Many people fled to the hills for safety following the quake and are yet to return to their homes as unusual tidal surges continue in the area.

Mr Taro said people in his area have not managed to access radio warnings but have been staying updated via mobile phones.

Minister Manetoali said reports about the damage at the National Referral Hospital have not been confirmed to his ministry.

John Gordon Hoto, deputy principal of Marou Bay Primary School in West Makira, said the earthquake destroyed the school's office building and a classroom and severely damaged staff housing.

He said there had also been several landslides in the area and there were reports of more destruction in other villages in the Marou Bay area.

"I think we need assistance from the national government to come down here and just witness what is happening," he said.

"The office block [has] fallen down and our classroom [is] about to fall and our staff houses were moved sideways and are just about to fall.

"So I think we need some assistance from the national government to help us."

On the east coast, building and water tanks at Pawa Secondary School on Ugi Island have been damaged.

Teacher Zinnia Tai said one girls' dormitory, a staff house and the students' sanitation block have been flattened.

She said it was lucky all students had left for the holidays, or many would have died when their dormitory collapsed.

Mrs Tai said all the water tanks had been damaged and this will affect drinking water supplies.

Quake triggers Tsunami

A tsunami of almost one metre was reportedly observed on the east coast of New Caledonia's main island.

Warnings were in place urging people to seek higher ground but have since been lifted.

In Hienghene the first wave arrived about two hours after the quake with reports saying the waves came in six-minute intervals - the biggest arriving three and a half hours after the quake hit Solomon Islands.

In the Solomons, the National Disaster Management Office said communities on Makira's southwestern coast have confirmed that a tsunami reached the island and alerts have been broadcast around the country through the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation.

The captain of a passenger boat captain Richard Boso said he was rudely awoken by massive vibrations that shook his vessel the MV Charisma while it was anchored off Marou Bay in West Makira.

"I was sleeping in my cabin and all of a sudden I could feel the vibration, vibration and shaking up and down," he said.

"It is really abnormal I mean when you are on the boat. All the passengers panicked so I just calmed them down, I told them to pack their few belongings and I dropped them off [on the] shore so that they can move in land with the villagers here."

Mr Boso said after he was satisfied his passengers had got to safety on high ground he sent the boat's skiff and crew up and down the coast warning villagers to do the same.

He said there were no reports of injuries or deaths in the Marou Bay area but there were several landslides and damages to buildings.

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