John Key. Photo Getty
Homeless villagers were seeking shelter on high ground
last night as a rescue effort began in the tsunami-struck
World Vision said at least 100 homes had been destroyed and
Government officials confirmed five people had died.
"I am currently walking through one community [in Lata], and
I'm knee-deep in water," said Jeremiah Tabua, World Vision's
emergency response co-ordinator in the Solomons. "I can see a
number of houses that have been swept away by the surge."
The tsunami was triggered by a magnitude 8 earthquake that
also caused panic in other Pacific countries and led to Civil
Defence placing New Zealand and other nations on tsunami
watch, a step below a full alert.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the Government was
working with Solomon Island authorities to see what support
New Zealand could give.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully had been in touch with the
Solomon Islands Government and "made it clear we're here to
help if we can".
The hardest-hit areas were four villages in Temotu province
in the Santa Cruz group where waves of up to 1m swept ashore
and reportedly damaged dozens of homes and properties.
Jared Berends, 35, a New Zealander with World Vision in the
Solomons, told the New Zealand Herald panicked villagers ran
for their lives when they saw the water coming, which they
described as a "tidal surge".
A World Vision staff member was speaking to her sister on the
phone when the tsunami hit.
"She ran down the two-storey office and as she did so could
see the water starting to come up ...
"Our staff were literally talking to her as she said,
'tsunami', put the phone down and ran out the door," Mr
Earthquakes had shaken Lata, the capital of Temotu province
and the largest town on the island, all week so there was
some awareness of the possibility of a tsunami.
"Most of the communities had been feeling them so there was
high alert and some had already gone to higher ground by that
point as well - but there was still a mad rush to get to
Communication with the affected areas was difficult. "We've
had reports that many homes there have been completely
There were unconfirmed reports of children being swept away.
Mr Berends said people on Santa Cruz were fearful of the
aftershocks but believed the immediate tsunami threat had
Kirsty Taylor-Doig of the New Zealand Defence Force confirmed
eight staff in the Solomon Islands were unharmed.
In April 2007, more than 50 people were killed and thousands
lost their homes when a magnitude 8.1 quake hit the western
Solomon Islands, sending waves crashing into coastal
The Solomons comprise more than 200 islands and have a
population of about 552,000 people.