'Several Dead' After Solomon Islands Quake

'Several Dead' After Solomon Islands Quake

A major 8.0 magnitude undersea earthquake that triggered a tsunami has killed at least five people and damaged dozens of homes in the Solomon Islands.

The US Geological Survey said the quake struck near the Santa Cruz islands, which have been hit by strong tremors over the past week, at a depth of 3.5 miles (5.8km).

"We know that a tsunami has been created," said Geoscience Australia seismologist David Jepsen. "It's a big earthquake anyway in terms of just the shaking."

More than three dozen aftershocks up to magnitude 6.6 rocked the region in the hours after the quake, the US Geological Survey said.

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.

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.

Locals in the island's capital, Honiara, 360 miles (580km) from the epicentre, said the quake was not felt there.

"People around the coast and in the capital are ringing in and trying to get information from us and the National Disaster Office and are slowly moving up to higher ground," said another official. "But panic? No, no, no, people are not panicking," George Herming, spokesman for the prime minister, said.

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.

In 2007 a tsunami following an 8.1-magnitude earthquake killed at least 52 people in the Solomons and left thousands homeless.

The Solomon Islands are part of the "Ring of Fire", a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific Ocean that is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.