7 Feb 2013

Death toll in Solomons quake and tsunami raised to nine

4:14 pm on 7 February 2013

The confirmed death toll from yesterday's earthquake and tsunami in Solomon Islands' Temotu province has reached nine.

The government says Lata Hospital reports nine fatalities but other people remain missing.

In an update, disaster officials say there was some damage to the terminal building at Lata Airport, while several logs blocked the runway.

The report says all the houses in Nela Village have been destroyed and three people were hurt, while 16 houses were reportedly destroyed in Luava Village and one person suffered injuries.

A child in Birmbe was swept out to sea and is still missing, while an unconfirmed number of houses had been destroyed.

There was one casualty in Venga Village and three people are missing from Malo Village on Neo Island, with one person there known to have died.

The National Disaster Office says up to 3,000 people have been displaced.

However, officials say they are still to obtain reports from more remote parts of Temotu.

The Premier of Temotu Province Father Charles Brown Beu says a helicopter arrived late this morning to make the first assessment and progress is being made at the airport in Lata which is covered in debris.

"The airport is being cleared by some workers, by the end of today the airport would be clear of all the debris so people are now working on it and any time tomorrow or the following day airplanes should be landing."

Father Brown Beu says the Provincial Government has limited resources and there is a real need now is for shelter and building materials.

James Meplana, who works for the Temotu Development Authority and lives near Lata says some people lost everything.

One village at the end of the airport, all the houses were completely destroyed. There were four other villages that were completely destroyed and they lost everything, and they only have what they wear. They lost all their things.

James Meplana says the tsunami also damaged the water source that supplies the town centre.

While Kirakira in Makira has reported some tsunami action there are no reports yet on damage in that province.

And while there was unusual wave and current activity in Malaita there has been no damage reported to date.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, has announced the government is making an emergency response to help the victims of yesterday's earthquake and tsunami in Solomon Islands.

He says 169,000 US dollars is being made available for humanitarian supplies and support to the Solomon Islands government assessment teams.

Mr McCully says the remoteness of the area means it may take some time to gain a full picture of the extent of the damage and New Zealand is prepared to provide additional help.