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Hundreds may die in Solomons

Solomon Islands

April 10, 2007
A doctor who co-ordinated the medical response in Gizo, one of the towns worst hit by the Solomons Island earthquake, fears hundreds more will die following the natural disaster. The doctor could only call on a handful of medically trained staff and had to use tarpaulins to shelter the sick and injured. The only medical resources were those salvaged from the ruins of the hospital. The morning the quake hit, people ran screaming to the mountains, while others suffered horrific injuries when they were hit by collapsing buildings and debris. Treating the injured was made even more difficult by a large electrical storm and the constant fear of landslides and falling power poles. “These people have food problems, water problems, no shelter, no employment. It's not over. Malaria, dysentery, are going to be the next killers. Homelessness, social issues with the children having no homes – there are major, major issues ahead...and even when the drama of it is out of the news, there are going to be hundreds more dead. There are chronic problems that have developed from this acute situation.”

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Some remote areas are still waiting for aid to reach them. Up to 7,000 people were left homeless by the disaster and many more living in low-lying areas are afraid to return home from hill camps because of fears of another tsunami. "The estimate was that 80 per cent of the communities have been contacted and have been receiving relief supplies, and the other 20 per cent they hope to get to over the next three days." The current death toll is at 40, with 24 others still missing. The area relies heavily on sea transport and many wharves and jetties have been destroyed or damaged, along with roads in more populated areas.

Islanders in the Western Province are living in fear following rumours and unsubstantiated reports of a new tsunami on the way. Continuing aftershocks and changes to the local geography also had an impact. "The island of Ranongga has literally been lifted 2 metres out of the water. Locals we met in the villages of Pienuna, Niami and Varvovo believed that rather than the land rising, the sea had retreated and would return soon - in the form of another tsunami. They are living in fear and cannot begin to repair the damage to their gardens and homes until they feel it is safe to return."
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