HONIARA (TIP): A major 8.0magnitude earthquake jolted theSolomon Islands on feb 6 with smalltsunami waves buffeting Pacificcoastlines, leaving at least five peopledead and dozens of homes damagedor destroyed.A quake-generated wave of justunder one metre (three feet) reachedparts of the Solomons, and Vanuatuand New Caledonia also reportedrising sea levels, before a region-widetsunami alert was lifted.Sirens were heard in Fiji, localssaid. “Chaos in the streets of Suva aseveryone tries to avoid the tsunami!!”tweeted Ratu Nemani Tebana fromthe Fiji capital.Quake-prone Japan, which was hitby a huge tsunami in March 2011 thatkilled more than 19,000 people, wasalso on edge with the nationalweather agency warning that a smalltsunami could still come ashore.
The Pacific Tsunami WarningCenter cancelled its regional alert forPacific-island nations at 0350 GMT,about two and a half hours after thepowerful quake struck at 0112 GMTnear the Santa Cruz Islands in theSolomons.”We can report five dead and threeinjured. One of the dead was a malechild, three were elderly women andone an elderly man,” Chris Rogers, anurse at Lata Hospital in the SantaCruz Islands, told AFP.Solomons Prime Minister GordonDarcy Lilo’s office said four villageson the Santa Cruz Islands had beenhit.”Latest reports suggest thatbetween 60 to 70 homes have beendamaged by waves crashing into atleast four villages on Santa CruzIslands,” Lilo’s spokesman GeorgeHerming told AFP.”At this stage, authorities are stilltrying to establish the exact numberand extent of damage.Communication to (the) Santa CruzIslands is difficult due to theremoteness of the islands.
“It was not immediately apparentwhether the victims died in the quakeor tsunami.Solomon Islands Red Crosssecretary general Joanne Zolevekesaid she too had been told at leastthree villages were hit, with houseswashed away.”In the Solomon Islands when wetalk about villages there can beanything from 10 to 30 houses,” shesaid.The US Geological Survey said thequake struck the Santa Cruz Islands,which have been rocked by a series ofstrong tremors over the past week, ata depth of 28.7 kilometres (18 miles).The USGS first gave the depth at 5.8kilometres.Several powerful aftershocks werealso recorded.
“Sea level readings indicate atsunami was generated,” the HawaiibasedPacific centre said after the 8.0quake, before lifting its tsunami alertfor several island nations.Australia’s earthquake monitoringagency and the Pacific centre said atsunami wave was measured at 91centimetres, at Lata, on the mainSanta Cruz island of Ndende.Locals in the Solomons capitalHoniara, 580 kilometres (360 miles)from the epicentre, said the quakewas not felt there.Lata Hospital director of nursingAugustine Bilve said some patientswere evacuated to higher ground toprepare for any injured from thevillages along the coast.
“There was continuous shaking inLata but no damaged buildings here,”he said.”We were told that after theshaking, waves came to the villages.”In 2007 a tsunami following an 8.0-magnitude earthquake killed at least52 people in the Solomons and leftthousands homeless. The quake wasso powerful that it lifted an island andpushed out its shoreline by dozens ofmetres.The Solomons are part of the “Ringof Fire”, a zone of tectonic activityaround the Pacific Ocean that issubject to earthquakes and volcaniceruptions.Before it was lifted, the tsunamiwarning was in effect for the SolomonIslands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua NewGuinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia,Kosrae, Fiji, Kiribati, and Wallis andFutuna.