Locals walk among debris washed ashore after severe
flooding near the capital Honiara in the Solomon Islands.
REUTERS/Rachel Skeates/World Vision
More than 50,000 people have been affected by the flash
floods that have devastated the capital and a number of
provinces of the Solomon Islands.
Heavy rain last week from a tropical depression caused severe
flooding in Honiara after the Mataniko River burst its banks,
washing away homes and bridges.
The Government has confirmed 21 deaths, but the toll is
expected to rise; about 30 people are still missing.
An estimated 10,000 are sheltering in evacuation centres.
Honiara and other areas of Guadalcanal Province have been
declared a disaster zone.
The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs
is beginning deployments to Honiara.
Pacific region chief Sune Gudnitz said the situation required
urgent funding and support.
"Our immediate priority is to address the humanitarian needs
of the thousands of people in emergency shelters," he said.
"Funds are needed to assist the affected population, who are
from some of the poorest urban and remote communities of the
Honiara International Airport reopened to commercial flights
yesterday, enabling the movement of aid workers and supplies.
Staff from the Save The Children charity have started to
distribute items such as soap, towels and buckets to help
prevent the spread of disease in the region.
Sewage systems in the capital have been wiped out. A Save The
Children spokesman, Graham Kenna, said there was a high risk
of disease and workers were rushing to help where they could.
"This is a huge problem for the city, but especially for the
10,000 people who are crammed into evacuation centres, having
lost their homes."
Mr Kenna said the charity was very concerned for children
affected by the flooding.
"Not only have many lost their family homes ... but they've
suffered terribly emotionally."
At a post-Cabinet press conference in Wellington, Prime
Minister John Key said assessments indicated damage to
housing, power lines, roads and bridges.
New Zealand had responded swiftly with $300,000 worth of aid,
which had been used by World Vision and Oxfam, which were
distributing essential supplies, he said.
An RNZAF C-130 Hercules flew to the Solomons yesterday
carrying relief supplies and emergency response staff from
state agencies and NGOs.
"Assessment teams on the ground will report back to help
shape our next steps, including consideration of what
additional assistance might be required," Mr Key said.
He said the usual process was to allocate a small amount of
monetary aid in the first instance until an assessment team
could update the Government on what was required.
A New Zealand Police contingent on deployment to Honiara as
part of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon
Islands had been working with the Royal Solomon Islands
Police Force to assist with its response.
- Brendan Manning and Vaimoana Tapaleao