6 Feb 2009

Belgian hiker feared dead in Solomons flooding

9:18 pm on 6 February 2009

A Belgian hiker is missing and feared dead in Solomon Islands after heavy rains caused widespread flood damage and at least 10 confirmed deaths.

Police said the man was among at least nine people still missing after torrential rain and flooding this week hit northwest Guadalcanal and nearby Savo Island.

Ten villagers have been confirmed dead, but authorities fear the number will rise as relief efforts reach the hardest hit areas and government agencies and non-government organisations collect more information.

Police are using helicopters to scour the area in search of the missing man.

Meanwhile, the first shipment of emergency food and water supplies has been delivered to the Solomons. International support has flowed in with food shortages and supply cuts rife.

Several thousand villagers have been displaced from their homes, while some have been evacuated to the capital Honiara.

Most of the country's Guadalcanal province has been declared a disaster area as relief efforts provide the region with much-needed supplies. An estimated 1,800 people need urgent assistance.

Solomon Islands disaster management spokesperson Julian Makaa said there had been some delays in getting the relief to affected areas because of bad weather.

Mr Makaa said more shipments of water and supplies would be arriving in the next few days.

The New Zealand Government has donated $100,000 for flood relief efforts. The Australian government has donated $A100,000 in aid. Japan, China, Taiwan and France have also contributed.

Six teams in boats have been sent to assess disaster sites and begin aid relief, while the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands provided support and remained on stand-by.