11 Feb 2009

Missing Belgian hiker in Solomon Islands found alive

7:56 am on 11 February 2009

A missing Belgian hiker has been found alive and well in Solomon Islands ending fears he had become the 11th person to die in widespread flooding.

Solomon Islands police yesterday winched to safety Dries Stevens after local villagers spotted his tent in dense jungle, 13 days after he started a seven-day cross-country trek.

The acting Solomons Police Commissioner, Peter Marshall, says Mr Stevens' family has been told he in hospital with minor injuries.

Ten villagers died as a result of the flooding, but authorities fear numbers will rise as relief efforts reach the hardest hit areas.

Solomons police say despite the flood waters now receding at least 11 people are still missing.

Continuous rain since December intensified late last week and flooding destroyed houses, gardens and washed away bridges.

Several thousand villagers were displaced from their homes, while some were evacuated to Honiara.

Most of the country's Guadalcanal province was declared a disaster area as relief efforts provide much-needed supplies.