3 Apr 2007

Solomons quake and tsunami death toll rises to 15

1:43 pm on 3 April 2007

The confirmed death toll following the earthquake in Solomon Islands has now risen to 15.

The National Disaster Council says eight people are confirmed dead on Gizo, two in Mondo on Ranongga and another three on Simbo.

Two people are also reported to have died in Choiseul.

A spokesman for the council, Julian Makaa, says the most recent reports indicate that more than 900 homes have been destroyed and nearly 5,500 people have been affected by the earthquake and associated tsunami.

Mr Makaa says all the figures, including the death toll, are expected to rise.

Unofficial figures put the death toll at 22.

A police patrol boat with supplies has already reached the area with water, tents and tarpaulins.

Another police boat is due to leave today and the National Disaster Council has chartered three other private vessels to carry supplies into the affected area, hopefully later today.

The Council has been meeting this morning and it is waiting for further information before making a decision over whether to declare a state of disaster.

Another earthquake of magnitude 6.4 on the Richter scale has hit the Marovo Lagoon area in the Western province this morning.

Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation says it's the 29th earthquake to have struck the Western Province since the massive first quake yesterday morning.

Reports quote residents as saying it felt as strong as yesterday's.

There are no reports of additional damage.

Offers of aid are being made to Solomon Islands by the international community to help those affected by yesterday's earthquake.

The Solomon's Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, says food, water and shelter will be the priorities.

He expects formal requests for help will go out after a meeting of the National Disaster Management Office today:

"We have Australia that has indicated support, and of course the republic of China and all of them. The New Zealand government as well has indicated that they will need formal request and that request will go this morning."

The Australian government has already made an initial offer of up to one million US dollars in emergency funds