Emergency supplies reach Solomon Islands disaster zone | Pacific Beat

Emergency supplies reach Solomon Islands disaster zone

Emergency supplies reach Solomon Islands disaster zone

Updated 11 February 2013, 19:20 AEDT

Authorities in Temotu Province in the Solomon Islands are starting to distribute emergency relief supplies such as rice, water and clothing to those affected by last week's earthquake and tsunami.

But the relief effort is being hampered by repeated aftershocks. One caused significant damage to the province's only wharf, making it unusable.

The Premier of Temotu Province, Brown Beu, says he's worried that with so many people sheltering in makeshift camps - without water and sanitation - he could soon be dealing with a health crisis.

Sam Bolitho asked him to describe the relief operation.

Presenter: Sam Bolitho

Speaker:The Premier of Temotu Province Brown Beu

BEU: The distribution in the affected areas has already begun as of yesterday and continues today. One of the patrol boats has already arrived and it's assisting with the distribution of goods, to stricken areas that are not accessible by road.

BOLITHO: I understand there were a series of large aftershocks and quakes over the weekend. Can you tell me what happened and whether any damage was caused?

BEU: Yeah. Following an aerial assessment, the worst damage appears to have been in the West Santa Cruz. People in these areas have reportedly lost everything, except the clothes they were wearing, when the wave struck. However, two large quakes about six kilometres off the coast of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Island, on the night of 8th. February, 2013, have meant that further damage has been done and a report has come in that as a result of that quake, further houses have fallen, further injuries have been sustained by a number of people and these people have since been taken to Lata Hospital.

BOLITHO: Do you know how many people have been affected, how many homes?

BEU: Homes that have been affected, the number of homes have been 594, 594 households that I've got to my office and the population of persons affected is about, the report has come to me, is 3,329, 3,329 people. In terms of infrastructure, the Lata Wharf is damaged. It is not currently possible to drive vehicles onto the wharf and so all the unloading of ships are now being done by hand.

BOLITHO: For the people who have lost their homes, where are they gathered now?

BEU: Many of the people have lost their homes are still gathered up on the hill, where there was a temporary camp site set up initially by themselves with the help of the government. They have not been able to go back to their villages, because virtually nothing is there and, of course, definitely, they're still scared. Although the earthquakes have since, they've gone down, one are two aftershocks are still coming. It's basically almost coming back to normal. But people are still scared and a lot of people are still up on the hill.

BOLITHO: With all those people gathered in the temporary shelter. Has that raised any health and sanitation worries at this stage?

BEU: That is basically my concern and, of course, that of the medical authorities, because of the fact that up in the bush there's no water, people have to literally carry water from, from Lata and other sources around here in containers for both cooking, drinking and general washing.

In the near future, my fear is that an outbreak of diarrhoea and things like that. I hope it doesn't happen, but you never know, this is very vulnerable here.

BOLITHO: Last week, we talked about the stress that the hospital was under. Do you think they'll be able to cope if there is an outbreak of diarrhoea?

BEU: Yeah, I think with medical supplies coming from Honiara, I think they can cope and a number of additional nurses arriving tomorrow. Nine nurses are arriving from Honiara tomorrow and they are already emergency nurses who have already arrived who are present on the ground.

BOLITHO: Some of the initial supplies have started reaching Temotu now. Can you tell me what do people still need the most right now?

BEU: In fact, what the people need most right now is basically water, because the water source that supplies Lata and the villages around Lata Township, that water source was destroyed by the floods, I mean sorry, the tsunami, with mud, with rocks. But the water authorities have since been trying their best to clean up the water and where possible, perhaps put chlorine and other stuff to clean the water and purify it so that it can be drinkable again.

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