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Tsunami Kills at Least 20 in Solomons
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Less than a day after a devastating tsunami hit the Solomon Islands, a smaller earthquake struck early Tuesday near the South Pacific chain of islands. The US Geological Survey reported an earthquake of 6.2 on the Richter scale struck about 305 kilometers west-northwest of Honiara, on Guadacanal, the capital of the Solomons, about 10:20 AM (23:20 GMT).

There were no reports of further damage after Tuesday's quake.

The tsunami and huge 8.1 earthquake that devastated the western Solomon Islands Monday killed at least 20 people and left many more missing, a senior police officer said.

"We are now of a view that here are about 20 confirmed dead overall, but I am rather fearful that the number will increase today as we get around to the various locations," said Solomons Deputy Police Commissioner Peter Marshall.

He said many more people were missing. Earthquakes are regular events in the Solomons, a poor country of 450,000 people spread over 1,000 islands closer to Papua New Guinea than Australia.

Entire villages were destroyed Monday after the 8.1-magnitude quake caused a tsunami that struck towns in the country's Western Province and a state of emergency was declared by the government.

Sky news in Australia reported hundreds of people were missing after the town of Gizo was first shaken by the earthquake, whose epicenter was just 40km away, and then by punished by a wave reported to be at least 10 feet high.

"The main number of the deaths were in Gizo, where a number of villages were affected," Marshall said.

Separately, police spokesman Mick Spinks said 13 villages had been destroyed.

"Virtually all the houses have been destroyed" in the affected villages, the spokesman said.

"The priority this morning is to use aircraft to get around all the islands in the Western Province to see what the level of the problem is," Marshall said.

He said rough terrain and poor communications were hampering efforts to assess the damage and loss of life.

Aircraft and boats with aid workers and officers on board were racing to the area to estimate damage and bring help to survivors.

"It's been a long night for a lot of people, in the area of Gizo in particular, there is no electricity and there have been a lot of tremors overnight and people have had to move to higher ground," Marshall said.

The premier of the Western Province said there were up to 4,000 people camping out in Gizo.

The US Geological Survey recorded at least 10 quakes measuring between 5.0 and 6.2 in magnitude overnight.

(Xinhua News Agency via agencies April 3, 2007)

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