Strong earthquake near Solomon Islands, tsunami reported

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A magnitude 8.1 undersea earthquake triggered a tsunami that has killed at least fifteen people, including six children, in the Solomon Islands. Tsunami warnings have been issued for parts of Australia as well.

According to the US Geological Survey, the magnitude 8.0 quake struck Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 20:39:56 (UTC) about 45 km (25 mi) south-southeast of Gizo, New Georgia Islands, Solomon Islands, at a depth of 10 km.

'Disaster' declared in the Solomons

The tsunami was reported as several yards, possibly ten feet, high on the western side of the Solomon Islands and has destroyed at least two villages, leaving at least four people missing and fifteen dead. At least six of those who died were children. The town of Munda reports heavy damage from the tsunami.

"Two villages were reported to have been completely inundated. We have received reports of four people missing," said Solomon Islands National Disaster Management official, Julian McLeod who also said that communication is difficult because most communication lines are under water.

The government of the Solomon Islands reported in a press release, April 2, two confirmed deaths and several others missing in Sasamunga village in South Choiseul. The press release described 10 meters high waves that pushed 500 meters inland. The hospital in Sasamunga village was destroyed by the waves. In addition, nearby villages reported damage to health centres and schools. The premier of Choiseul, Jackson Kiloe, declared his province "in disaster" and called on the Solomon government disaster authorities to contact the province.

Region on alert

Tsunami warnings had been issued for Queensland Australia's Barrier Reef Islands and Willis Island in the Coral Sea, as well as South Pacific states. The earthquake was centred 2145 km North-northeast of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Australia's National Meteorological and Oceanographic Centre in Melbourne warned that a possible tsunami could affect Willis Island at 8.30 a.m. (AEST) and Cooktown about 9.30 a.m. (AEST). The Centre later extended the tsunami warning to Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island and the whole eastern coast down to Tasmania. People were warned to exit the water and move away from low lying coastal areas. Afterward, at 11:30 am, all fears of the tsunami were put to rest as the Willis Islands reported no tsunami. All warnings for Eastern Australian coasts have been cleared, with no imminent threat perceived.

Japan's Meteorological Agency is determining whether the Japanese archipelago is at risk of a tsunami, reported the Kyodo news agency.

According to the NOAA/NWS West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre, a tsunami has been observed at the following sites:

Honiara, Solomon Island
(9.4S, 159.9E) 0.215m (0.7ft) at 22:52 UTC
Port Vila Vanuatu
(17.8S, 168.3E) 0.12m (0.4ft) at 23:27 UTC

The tsunami amplitudes are measured relative to normal sea level, not crest-to-trough heights. Forecast models indicate the tsunami energy will be mainly contained to the south of the Solomon Islands. A bulletin from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC), dated April 2, 2007 01:17 UTC, provided further information. "Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated. It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicentre and could also be a threat to more distant coasts. Authorities should take appropriate action in response to this possibility."

In addition, the PTWC suggested that "when no major waves are observed for two hours after the estimated time of arrival or damaging waves have not occurred for at least two hours then local authorities can assume the threat is passed. Danger to boats and coastal structures can continue for several hours due to rapid currents. As local conditions can cause a wide variation in tsunami wave action the all clear determination must be made by local authorities."


  Learn more about the 2007 Solomon Islands Earthquake, Earthquakes and Tsunamis on Wikipedia.