At least six bodies were found in the muddy wreckage left by a tsunami that swept into the Solomon Islands following a powerful earthquake, sparking tsunami alerts across the South Pacific.
According to the US Geological Survey, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake with a depth of 28.7 kilometers (18 miles) struck near the town of Lata on Santa Cruz Islands on Wednesday. The islands have been rocked by a series of strong tremors over the past week, triggering 1.5-meter (4 foot, 11-inch) waves that roared inland and destroyed dozens of homes.
Dozens of aftershocks continued through the day, including one at 6.6 magnitude. Smaller waves were also recorded in Vanuatu and New Caledonia before the region-wide tsunami alert was lifted, AFP reports.
Five villages on the Santa Cruz Islands were wiped out with an estimated 100 homes damaged or destroyed, according to a spokesman for Solomons Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo. Several other people were reportedly still missing while the flooded airstrip prevented relief workers from reaching the region.
“At this stage, authorities are still trying to establish the exact number and extent of damage. Communication to the Santa Cruz Islands is difficult due to the remoteness of the islands,” George Herming said.
The Solomons lie on the geologically active “Ring of Fire” making it prone to earthquakes. The Pacific island chain was hit by a magnitude-8.1 quake in April 2007 which killed more than 50 people and left thousands homeless, reports AP.