Tsunami kills at least five in Solomons after big Pacific quake
By James Grubel
(Reuters) - A powerful 8.0 magnitude earthquake set off a tsunami that killed at least five people in a remote part of the Solomon Islands on Wednesday and triggered evacuations across the South Pacific as island nations issued tsunami alerts.
The quake struck 340 km (211 miles) east of Kira Kira in the Solomons, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said as it issued warnings for the Solomons and other South Pacific nations including Australia and New Zealand. It later canceled the warnings for the outlying regions.
A tsunami measuring 0.9 metres (three feet) hit near the town of Lata on the remote Santa Cruz island, swamping some villages and the town's main airport as people fled to safety on higher ground.
More than three dozen aftershocks up to magnitude 6.6 rocked the region in the hours after the quake, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
Lata hospital's director of nursing, Augustine Pilve, told New Zealand television that five people had been killed, including a boy about 10 years old, adding that more casualties were possible as officials made their way to at least three villages that may have been hit.
"It's more likely that other villages along the coast of Santa Cruz may be affected," he said.
Disaster officials in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara told the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corp. that they believed six people were dead and that five villages had suffered damage.
Solomon Islands Police Commissioner John Lansley said it was too early to fully assess the damage or casualty numbers, and said authorities hoped to send aircraft to the region on Thursday to help determine the extent of the damage. Continued...