Strong aftershocks continue to rattle Solomons after earthquake and tsunami

A series of powerful aftershocks rattled the Solomon Islands on Tuesday and Wednesday, after a 7.2-magnitude quake and tsunami left around 1,000 people homeless on the remote Pacific islands.

The aftershocks, ranging from magnitude 5.3 to 6.9 struck just minutes apart from around 1215 GMT and came as officials visited isolated villages to check on damage after Monday’s earthquake.

The latest aftershocks struck very close to Monday’s quake off the South Pacific nation according to seismologists at the US Geological Survey.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said there was no threat of a Pacific-wide tsunami, but warned that localised destructive waves were possible.

Information from the remote area remained sketchy but a police patrol boat from the capital Honiara left Monday night to assess damage in the region about 300 kilometres (180 miles) west of the capital of the South Pacific nation.

There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries following the quakes and tsunami on Monday.

Another 5.1 magnitude aftershock had rattled the region Tuesday morning and a 6.2 aftershock late Monday sent villagers fleeing for higher ground, said the director of the Solomon Islands Disaster Management Office, Loti Yates.

“The quake frightened a lot of people into running away from their coastal villages,” Yates said.

He added that landslides had occurred on Rendova and Tetepare islands following the 7.2 quake and an earlier 6.5 tremor.

“We are still waiting for the latest reports since the survey of the area yesterday,” Yates said.

The office said damage was caused by the earthquakes and a tsunami of up to eight feet (almost 2.5 metres), according to officials in the region.

Officials reported Monday that at least 500 homes had been damaged or destroyed but Yates said these were all in the Morovo Lagoon area and further damage on Rendova and Tetepare was still to be assessed.

Rendova is home to around 3,600 people, according to UNICEF, which is rebuilding 19 schools on the island following an April 2007 tsunami that killed 52 people in the region, destroyed hundreds of homes and displaced thousands.

UNICEF Pacific representative Isiye Ndombi said rapid response teams had been sent to Rendova and Tetepare, a largely uninhabited island except for an eco-tourism venture.

“It will take several days however until we know the full extent and consequences of this tsunami because these islands are very remote and difficult to access,” Ndombi said.