4 Apr 2007

Bougainville authorities still uncertain about quake impact

7:07 pm on 4 April 2007

The government in the autonomous Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville says it is surprised to hear reports of damage in the south of the province as a result of the tsunami on Monday.

Earlier the administration had said its warnings had worked well and that there were no indications that the waves had caused any problems.

But the Post Courier newspaper has reported extensive damage from the tsunami around Buin in the south of Bougainville which is close to the Solomon Islands province of Choiseul.

The province's deputy administrator, Raymond Masonu, says the newspaper report took them by surprise because their officials around Buin had given them the all clear.

"We still have not got confirmation from that. What we are trying to do is send assessment teams to those affected areas."

Mr Masonu says they are querying the newspaper's report that people have also been displaced by the tsunami.

Originally when we gave out the warning for the tsunami we told people to move to higher grounds and that can hardly be called displacement because as soon as the warning was reduced we advised these people to return to their villages when there was no more danger.

Meanwhile, the secretary general of the Solomon Islands Red Cross, Charles Kelly, says it will be some days before they have a full picture of the devastation.

We are expecting a week's time before a full picture of the full report will emerge. Right now some are being reached some are yet to be reached. Shipping is a problem and ships are continuing to be sent from here in Honiara and we are still to reach some parts of the islands.

The French government has joined the international relief efforts for Solomon islands.

It has made available a military CASA aircraft to fly 2.5 tonnes of food supplies and emergency equipment from New Caledonia.

The French assistance is reported to be the result of a request from the Solomon Islands prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, to the French President, Jacques Chirac.