AFAP manages the Australian-Pacific Centre for Emergency and Disaster Information (APCEDI) to provide news on natural disaster events in the Asia-Pacific region and to help with rapid disaster response assessment. This was originally a communications network that was activated during a disaster to disseminate information to our Asia-Pacific NGO offices. Now APCEDI has a much wider application across the Asia-Pacific Region.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Major Earthquake and Tsunami hits Northern Solomon Islands

Monday morning at 07:39:56 Solomon Islands local time (2007 April 1 20:39:56 UTC), a magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck off the west coast of the New Georgia Group. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a series of Regional Tsunami Warning and related advisories.

The following is a list of the main earthquake and aftershocks that have hit the area from the USGS.

MAP 5.0 2007/04/02 15:40:05 -7.397 155.559 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.1 2007/04/02 14:20:49 -8.656 157.692 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.7 2007/04/02 13:53:07 -8.657 157.627 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.4 2007/04/02 13:49:54 -7.811 156.518 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.5 2007/04/02 12:35:26 -8.740 157.679 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 6.2 2007/04/02 12:02:23 -8.539 157.548 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 6.0 2007/04/02 10:49:15 -7.197 156.192 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.3 2007/04/02 07:16:33 -7.465 156.145 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.6 2007/04/02 05:33:36 -7.309 155.323 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.1 2007/04/02 05:30:46 -7.176 155.663 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.6 2007/04/02 04:11:40 -7.176 156.067 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 4.8 2007/04/02 04:03:21 -6.868 155.160 10.0 BOUGAINVILLE REGION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
MAP 5.3 2007/04/02 01:36:16 -7.202 155.474 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.3 2007/04/02 01:31:03 -8.196 157.108 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 4.9 2007/04/02 00:49:48 -6.858 155.457 10.0 BOUGAINVILLE REGION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
MAP 5.0 2007/04/02 00:10:56 -7.077 155.888 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.3 2007/04/01 23:25:28 -7.346 156.143 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.1 2007/04/01 23:09:39 -7.324 155.772 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.8 2007/04/01 22:57:23 -7.321 155.995 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.2 2007/04/01 22:45:33 -7.688 155.766 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.3 2007/04/01 22:41:05 -6.964 155.214 10.0 BOUGAINVILLE REGION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
MAP 5.3 2007/04/01 22:29:55 -7.250 155.323 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.7 2007/04/01 21:45:38 -7.432 155.581 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.5 2007/04/01 21:43:16 -7.705 155.608 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 5.6 2007/04/01 21:26:27 -7.317 155.401 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 6.4 2007/04/01 21:11:34 -7.441 155.774 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 6.7 2007/04/01 20:47:32 -7.133 155.661 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS
MAP 8.0 2007/04/01 20:39:56 -8.453 156.957 10.0 SOLOMON ISLANDS

News reports are still sketchy and rapid assessments are being carried out, but here is what is known so far.

Several places in the New Georgia Group sustained damage from a large tsunami following the main quake. This included the local provincial capital Gizo where the tsunami flooded the hospital, local market and surrounding residences and businesses near the coast and in adjacent low lying areas. A church and school in this area of Gizo have also been reportedly flooded. As Gizo was about 50 kms north of the epicentre, residents in low-lying areas would have had little time to escape especially given the level and magnitude of the tsunami. The death toll from the tsunami in and around Gizo has been initially put at between 10-20 with more people reported missing.

Damage reports are also coming in from coastal villages on Rannonga, Vella Lavella, Kolombangara, Rendova and the main New Georgia Island and its various outliers. This is mainly along west, southwest, southeast and south facing coasts. The extent of death, injury and damage is not well known in these more remote areas.

Given the location of the epicentre and the direction, size and extent of the tsunami, and the layout of the New Georgia Group, the tsunami was seemingly channeled strongly between Vella Lavella and Kolombangara Islands causing substantial damage to villages along the southwestern coast of Choiseul Island where damage and some deaths are being reported between Sasamungga and Posarae.

This is one of the most tectonically active regions on Earth, and Solomon Islanders particularly on western and southern facing coasts have long known to run uphill immediately after severe quakes. Solomon Islanders also tend to have a higher percentage of strong swimmers than many populations affected by the boxing day tsunami 2004. This may likely have saved many lives although the height of the tsunami and the proximity of the earthquake's epicentre to the coast would have severely limited the time and ability that people had to escape, as many in low-lying areas of Western Province do not have high hills close to their residences.

Given the number of powerful aftershocks, most residents should heed Government warnings and are well advised to remain on high ground throughout the region for the next few days, and when entering low-lying areas have a clear plan of retreat to higher ground the instant any major shaking is felt.

The level and extent of this tsunami should be well taken into account when planning the rebuilding of village areas particularly with respect to hospitals, schools, churches and other key public buildings.

Outside of the Solomons, particularly in the Bougainville and Eastern Milne Bay areas of PNG, the tsunami also hit but with much less force, causing initial reports of only minor damage to some localised coastal areas.

APCEDI will continue to monitor this situation as more details become clear.

Kevin Vang
APCEDI Coordinator

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