Survivors of the 3 April 2014 floods in the Solomon Islands pick through the rubble, 5 April 2014. Photo: ONE News

By Liz Burlingame
19 April 2014

(weather.com) – A major 7.5-magnitude earthquake was recorded off the coast of Papua New Guinea Saturday, and the tremors could lead to a tsunami, warned the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

The earthquake occurred 42 miles southwest of Panguana at a depth of approximately 6 miles.

A tsunami warning was issued for both Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands at around 9:40 a.m. EST.

The new tremor marks the third major earthquake in this region in the past week. On April 13, two separate earthquakes hit the Solomon Islands with magnitudes 7.6 and 7.5. An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 was also recorded off Papua New Guinea's remote Bougainville Island on April 11, but there were no damage reports.

Earthquakes that measure between 6 and 6.9 magnitudes are classified as "strong," whereas the ones between 7 and 7.9 are called "major" quakes.

Major Earthquake Hits Off Papua New Guinea, Tsunami Warning Issued


Honiara, 14 April 2014 (AFP) – A series of powerful earthquakes off the Solomon Islands sparked panic in evacuation centres filled with victims of an earlier flood but apparently caused no serious damage, aid workers said Monday.

A 7.6-magnitude quake woke residents in the flood-hit capital Honiara early Sunday, followed soon after by a 5.9-magnitude aftershock, then a tremor close to midnight that measured 7.5, according to the US Geological Survey.

The quakes prompted two tsunami alerts that were swiftly cancelled and the Solomon Islands government did not report any damage.

However, authorities in Papua New Guinea reportedly said there was one death in a separate 7.1 quake that hit on Friday.

About 9,000 people remain homeless in Honiara after floods earlier this month that claimed at least 21 lives. Save the Children's emergencies manager Graham Kenna said the quakes sent many running for their lives.

"It's terrified the people who are in these displaced centres, they're very, very frightened," he told AFP.

"Most of them went for higher ground but then they rushed back because they wanted to ensure what few possessions they have were safe.

"It hasn't disrupted the work we're doing that much, but it's put the people more and more on edge."

Kenna said food and supplies were being distributed but aid agencies estimated that only 40 percent of the items needed to cope with the disaster had so far arrived in the Solomons.

With regional stockpiles still depleted after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered the Philippines in November, Hanna said additional supplies were being sent from the Middle East and South Asia but could be weeks away.

In the meantime, he said preventing an outbreak of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease already common in the Solomons before the floods, was a priority.

"All the extra water that's around is going to make the mosquitoes breed like crazy and I'd say that when it dries out, probably in the next three or four days, dengue's going to be a major issue," he said. [more]

Solomons flood victims 'terrified' after quakes


By Anna Cross
19 April 2014

(Newstalk ZB) – Prices for basic foods in the Solomon Islands have quadrupled following the floods there.

TEAR Fund chief Ian McInnes says while the focus of the aid effort has been on Honiara, hundreds of other communities are yet to receive any help.

A lot of market stalls are empty, but cabbages, tomatoes and root vegetables are selling for four times their normal price.
A result the government has pledged an extra 95-thousand dollars to boost food production in remote communities.

Food prices quadruple in Solomons after flood


15 April 2014 (Fuseworks) – Recent torrential rains, extreme flooding and several large magnitude earthquakes in the Solomon Islands, have affected 52,000 people, of which 26,000 are estimated to be children. In the immediate aftermath of this series of natural disasters, much still needs to be done to aid in the recovery effort and identify gaps that still need to be met.

Dennis McKinlay, Executive Director at UNICEF NZ said, "An area of major concern for UNICEF is the continued large numbers of people taking refuge in evacuation centres. Plans are being put in place to consolidate the number of centres by closing smaller centres and shelters currently housed in schools so that they can reopen for classes. This strategy will only be beneficial if the remaining centres have access to sufficient supplies and facilities."

"Adequate health care supplies are needed to combat diarrhoea, malaria, dengue fever, respiratory, eye and skin infections. Other major concerns for UNICEF include the availability of counselling services, reports of moderately or acutely malnourished children under five and the general protection of vulnerable people including children and pregnant women."

To date, some electricity and water systems have been restored but large numbers of the population remain dependent on emergency water trucks or water purification tablets that need to be replenished. Destroyed or damaged bridges are continuing to limit mobility and access, but repairs have started and detailed assessments in rural Guadalcanal are being carried out to assess the needs outside Honiara.

"UNICEF is continuing to work alongside the Solomon Islands Government and partners to provide a coordinated and effective response. While some immediate threats have passed, now is the time when the people of the Solomon Islands will need the most help. Critical ongoing needs continue to be site management of evacuation centres, food, clean water and sanitation and hygiene supplies," Mr McKinlay said.

Additional needs identified include blankets, clothing, micro-nutrient powder sachets, zinc, fuel, cooking utensils and school restoration to minimise delays in the resumption of classes. Reinstating water and sanitation facilities in schools is also a priority.

Mr McKinlay added, "In Honiara alone, nearly 11,000 continue to take refuge in 33 evacuation centres. Around 4,000 evacuees are thought to be children. Conditions in the centres are still inadequate for the number of people there and access to clean and safe water and toilets in the centres and surrounding areas continues to be the greatest concern."

UNICEF has made available its contingency supplies in Honiara consisting of water containers, water purification tablets, soap and hygiene messages. Distribution of collapsible water containers has taken place in Guadalcanal, while WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) kits have been distributed to evacuation centres. UNICEF has also purchased 50,000 bars of soap and additional supplies will be shipped from Vanuatu and other UNICEF depots.

Mr McKinlay added, "As those that can begin to return to their homes, many others have been rendered homeless and will be in need of greater help and assistance in the form of government issued ‘return packages’. UNICEF will do all it can to support this process but realises that it will take time and a further coordinated effort."

Donations are urgently needed so UNICEF can provide essential supplies and support the emergency relief effort. To donate go to: www.unicef.org.nz/solomon-islands.  

Items such as food and clothing cannot currently be accepted due to the logistical difficulties and costs associated with transporting items to the Solomon Islands.

Solomon Islands flooding: Thousands of children need help


16 April 2014 (Radio Australia) – The Solomon Islands government is still grappling with its post flood relief efforts.

The main hospital has sent staff to deal with diarrhoea, dengue flu and malaria outbreaks with damp conditions at the care centres hindering relief efforts.

The evacuation centres are still home to about 9 to 10 thousand people where supplies for the families in the centres limited and bridge access to Honiara is slow.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Acting New Zealand High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, Sarah Wong

WONG: I mean in terms of I guess the state of Solomon Islands and where things are I think it's useful to note that this has been an enormous event for Solomon Islands, and in particular, Honiara and Guadalcanal Province. It is a natural disaster that I can't thing of anyone, any Solomon Islander that I've spoken to who have described some natural disaster that's been worse than this and so it has taken people by surprise and people the recovery period is going to be quite awhile, this is many months of recovery for Solomon Islands. And I think that the international community need to be on standby to help, but Solomon Islands obviously need that space to work through some of these very complex issues around repatriating families, working out where people can rebuild, and also just the enormous task of rebuilding the infrastructure and basic services so that Honiara City and Guadalcanal Province can return to normal.

COUTTS: New Zealand is working with UNICEF as are other nations to try and overcome the concern about what's happening in the Care Centres at the moment. They're crowded still, people aren't able to go home, the schools are in use as kids haven't been able to go back to school and now, on top of that, they're trying to avert another crisis of illness in these Care centres. Can you just give us a status report?

WONG: We are very much aware that, for example, in Honiara itself, along the Metanico River, there are about 70 homes at least that have been completely destroyed and will need to be replaced. So there is a bit of pressure on the evacuation centres and where to house people and so at the moment, the first wave of emergency response was to try and get food and non-food items into those centres so that people had some basic necessities to allow them to sort of stay in those centres and get immediate shelter. But the challenge for all of us now is how to repatriate people and what assistance each family gets, because obviously different families have different circumstances.

The local authorities are trying to collate as much information as possible on what the current situation is for each family and then based on their advice, donors like New Zealand, will provide assistance to the authorities, through the authorities to assist these families.

COUTTS: But I'm just wondering now of the people who are in the evacuation centres, what is the state of their health, is there a large contingent now with diarrhoea, red eye, dengue, malaria and are we worried about cholera and typhoid, those sorts of things?

WONG: Oh, we definitely are. We know that there are an increasing number of flood-related diseases, particularly, for example, with children. We know that there's an increase in diarrhoea being presented. There are also, of course, the usual risk of malaria and dengue fever.

Because the local medical authorities here have noted an increase in cases being presented at the National Referral Hospital and in one of other local clinics. This is why New Zealand, along with Australia are providing the medical assistance personnel to come in and help manage the number of cases that are being presented.

COUTTS: And, so how likely is that the evacuation centres will be available, schools that are being used as evacuation centres will be available next week for the kids. I mean they were supposed to have gone back to school this week, but will they be accessible for the children to return to school next week?

WONG: Look again, this is an issue that we do know the Solomon Islands governments is thinking very hard about. Half of the 24 official evacuation centres are in schools and so the Solomon Islands government is working through a plan on how they can consolidate some of the evacuation centres. They are seriously looking at trying to repatriate families over the Easter period back to homes where they can, but, of course, they need to obviously. There are a number of issues around are the homes in a suitable state for them to live in, are they not in a flood plain. There are a number of things that they need to take into consideration, but we do know that the Solomon Islands government is thinking very hard about getting families, where they can, back into their houses of the Easter period and they have not given us a definite date on when the schools can be returned to schools, but we do know that they are thinking very hard about it and the international community are obviously in conversation with the government about how we can assist.

COUTTS: Some, we're told, will never be able to return home, because of the areas are prone to flooding and their houses have been devastated so they can't return. What's going to happen to them? So obviously there's a short term and a long term answer to that?

WONG: Yeah. So, look at the moment, what has happened is everyone has focused on the immediate emergency response, so making sure that people have basic shelter, basic food and other basic necessities to ensure that they are safe and protected.

Going forward, we are now starting to look at the medium term recovery and the issues of the fact that we know at least 80 homes or so have been destroyed and will need to be replaced and the questions of whether they should be rebuilding in the same locations or whether those who are in flood-prone areas should be looking at other areas to locate. They are issues that area being considered right now.

The Solomon Islands government haven't been able to obviously give us a definite answer on where to place people where they cannot rebuild on their existing land, but that is something that we are going to have to give the Solomon Islands government the time and space to work through. It's not an easy thing to do, but there are some people who are going to have to find new locations to live. [more]

Solomon Islands' next challenge to repatriate flood victims: NZ

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