7 Jan 2010

Emergency aid needed for quake-hit Solomons

9:00 pm on 7 January 2010

The United Nations aid agency Unicef says that more than a third of the population in one area of Solomon Islands needs emergency aid in the wake of a series of earthquakes since Monday that have triggered a tsunami and landslides.

A disaster assessment team has visited the island of Rendova, in western Solomons, where Monday's 7.2 quake caused substantial damage to many homes.

Unicef is still working with other agencies to help at least 1500 people who've been displaced on the island. Its emergency response coordinator, Hamish Weatherly, says the team has visited many affected communities.

He says emergency response teams, including World Vision and Oxfam, were visiting Rendova and nearby Tetepare island on Thursday.

No serious injuries or deaths

Solomons police commissioner Peter Marshall told Radio New Zealand that they now have a comprehensive picture of the aftermath of more than 15 quakes and aftershocks, and that on the whole the country has emerged well, with no serious injuries or deaths.

Mr Marshall says it will not take long to repair damage to buildings and they are confident no one is in a distressed situation. Fishermen reported missing on Tuesday have been located.

Following the initial earthquake, the United States Geological Survey reports a 6.9 quake late on Tuesday, 115km south-east of the town of Gizo in the western province, where an 8.1 quake in 2007 killed 52 people.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii says Tuesday's quake generated a small tsunami. It was followed by five moderate quakes with a magnitude of five or greater.

No assistance yet sought from New Zealand

The New Zealand Government says a detailed assessment is required before any decisions are taken on what aid might be provided.

Duty minister Judith Collins says the New Zealand High Commission in Solomon Islands is providing regular updates on the situation but so far no assistance has been sought by Honiara.

Two New Zealanders were among those forced to evacuate on Monday. They are safe and well.