The Solomon Islands were hit by a third large aftershock since a massive 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck five days before. The aftershocks have hampered aid agencies as they try to assess the damage and recovery efforts in the region.
The Australian reports two boats carrying supplies of medicine, food, water, and tents arrived at Lata, the main town in the island group most affected by the quake.
But communication between Lata and the capital of Honiara has been intermittent and officials are not sure if the supplies sent would be enough. Red Cross secretary general for the Solomon Islands, Joanne Zoleveke, stated:
“At the moment we don’t know if we are still in the relief stage or have moved to the recovery stage. We don’t know if what we have sent is sufficient or if more is required and we have to charter more boats.”
Zoleveke added, “We can’t make those decisions until we receive assessment reports from Lata and communications are intermittent.”
The Associated Free Press notes that the latest aftershock was rated at 6.3 magnitude and jolted the area on Monday about 32 miles southwest of Lata. Previous aftershocks were 6.5 and 7.0 magnitude and hit on Sunday and Friday respectively. An estimated 590 houses in the area have been destroyed.
Wednesday night’s 8.0 earthquake caused most of the damage when it triggered a meter-high tsunami that swept through coastal villages shortly after the quake struck.
Initial reports put the death toll at 13, but Zoleveke stated, “The official death toll is now at 10 as of last night. The body of a child was found in a ditch.”
Australia pledged additional aid to the area on Sunday. Foreign Minister Bob Carr is traveling to the Solomon Islands to tour the tsunami-wrecked areas. Carr added:
“We’re deploying two AUSAID workers to get into Lata to assess the damage and help coordinate relief, and a medical flight to the disaster zone. We’ll fund the evacuation of two people injured in the tsunami to get hospital treatment elsewhere in the Solomons.”
The area is no stranger to earthquakes, as the Solomon Islands are part of the “Ring of Fire,” a zone of tectonic activity in the Pacific. It is subject to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
A 2007 earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0 triggered a massive tsunami that killed more than 52 people in the Solomons and left thousands more homeless.
[Image by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Meyers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]