Pacific tsunami warning lifted after damage in Santa Cruz islands | Pacific Beat

Pacific tsunami warning lifted after damage in Santa Cruz islands

Pacific tsunami warning lifted after damage in Santa Cruz islands

Updated 6 February 2013, 18:49 AEST

The tsunami warnings and watches covering large parts of the South Pacific have been cancelled.

A tsunami generated by the eight magnitude earthquake hit the coast of Solomon Islands earlier on Wednesday, damaging several remote villages.

A warning issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii covered a wide swathe of our region including, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Kiribati, and Wallis and Futuna.

The warning triggered national tsunami plans and precautions in all those countries and we'll look at some of those reactions.

First to Solomon Islands where the response to the earthquake and tsunami which hit the Santa Cruz island group is being led by the Commissioner of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force John Lansley.

Commissioner Lansley spoke to Pacific Correspondent Campbell Cooney about what information he has about how badly the remote region has been affected.

Presenter: Campbell Cooney

Speaker: The Commissioner of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force John Lansley

LANSLEY: We understand a surge wave did three or four villages. We're not quite sure on the precise details yet. We're not also able to confirm whether, how effected those villages are and I wouldn't wish to speculate until I've had some more detailed information from the region of the affect on those villages.

COONEY: Is there any indications or reports at this stage of people being affected by the wave, any losses?

LANSLEY: We have some people missing and there is believed to be a few casualties. I'm hoping that they'll be a minimal number, but I'm not available ? of that, I don't have that information available at the moment.

COONEY: What is the next step for emergency services?

LANSLEY: OK. The initial reaction was that we have a National Disaster Management Office which we liaise very carefully with and in relation to the east of the country, Santa Cruz and the Lata region, we are looking to try and deploy some people there as soon as we possibly can to assess the situation, assess the damage and assess casualties, as I said earlier.

Now this has to be done in the context of we are conscious that for the last couple of hours, we've been possibly having a threat of a tsunami in other regions of the Solomon Islands and in fact, we understand that a small surge of perhaps two metres did affect Makira Province, which is to the west of Temotu, if you understand what I mean, were first affected and we do believe that the affect there has been relatively minimal, but we're again still trying to establish that. So our initial response has been in preparation and in taking measures to ensure peoples' safety in the other possibly affected regions of the Solomon Islands, which is include where I said Makira Province, but also Guadalcanal and the capital, Honiara and then up to Malaita Province and the Western Province going up towards Papua New Guinea.

So that's been our first task and to issue warnings and to communicate as much as we possibly could with people and through the radio and other forms of communication.

We have a procedure in place to consider evacuation if necessary and to the primary role has been to advise people to move to higher ground, where practicable.

So that's been our initial response and subsequent response is to consider the affected regions. If the threat reduces, which as time moves on it does. We're going to then

look at the affected regions and as I say I'm in conversation with the Prime Minister's office and the National Disaster Management Office to decide how the best response is going to be and we'll probably have a meeting within the next hour or hour-and-a-half to evaluate what steps we're going to take then,

COONEY: Any indications that the warnings got out to the people there. I suppose they were pretty close to where the epicentre of it was, but from your information that you have, they did get warnings?

LANSLEY: I couldn't tell you about Temotu, Lata or Santa Cruz, because I do not have information. But certainly Keira Keira we did issue warnings and my understanding is that people did move to the high ground in the Keira Province. Certainly here we did issue warnings and people did take action to move to higher ground and certain, most buildings moved from the shore where most of the buildings are in Honiara.

COONEY: You have a RAMSI over there with quite a bit of resources, but I'm curious, if they're going to be called on or is there any thought at this early stage calling for international assistance with this?

LANSLEY: Well, the RAMSI people or the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, are already in close cooperation with us, and they've already deployed a helicopter to go out to the east and assess whether there is any obvious damage from the air. They also went up very quickly to try and assess if the sea was in a surge mood and to try and give us a little bit extra warning if that was practicable.

Clearly, we're going to be in conversation with them over the next few hours and potentially a day to establish what assistance they can give us and if necessary, we would obviously consider other forms of assistance as required.

Contributors

Campbell Cooney

Campbell Cooney

Correspondent

Campbell joined the ABC in 1997 and has been reporting as Radio Australia’s Pacific Correspondent since 2006.

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