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Solomon Islands: UN assessment team deployed after yesterday’s deadly tsunami

Solomon Islands: UN assessment team deployed after yesterday’s deadly tsunami

A six-member United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team has been dispatched to the Solomon Islands, a day after the Pacific country was struck by a deadly tsunami caused by a powerful underwater earthquake.

At least 28 people have been killed, 19 injured and over 5,400 have been forced to flee their homes, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). With many more people missing and unaccounted for, three Government-organized search-and-rescue missions are under way.

The Government, which has declared a state of emergency, reported that on Choiseul Island, in the north of the country, approximately 1,000 houses have been destroyed based on an aerial assessment. Further investigation has been impeded by communication outages and difficulties in accessing the affected areas.

Yesterday’s tsunami was caused by an earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale, which struck 345 kilometres northwest of the country’s capital, Honiara. Since then, there have been almost 30 smaller aftershocks, although no further damage has been reported.

But the Australian Seismological Centre cautions that there is a high possibility of further larger earthquakes in the days to come.

Authorities are currently coordinating humanitarian relief efforts with the help of the local Red Cross office, and have identified tents, tarpaulins, food, utensils, water, containers, medical supplies, clothing and tools as priority needs.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has pre-positioned emergency medical supplies in the Solomon Islands for up to 10,000 people including 10 emergency kits, five “school in a box” kits and three recreation kits.

The International Organization for Migration and the non-governmental organization (NGO) Télécom sans Frontières have both dispatched teams, while the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department, known as ECHO, will send a regional rapid response official to the area as well. New Zealand has pledged $360,000 and in-kind assistance to aid relief efforts, while the country’s Red Cross will also provide help.

Public health experts are warning of the possibility of malaria outbreaks among the displaced. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) is sending a staff member from its office in Fiji to provide technical support and advice on malaria control, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community is working with authorities to distribute mosquito nets and insecticides.