50,000 homeless in Solomon Islands

By April 3, 2007

Solomon Island (MNN) — The Solomon Islands in the South
Pacific was hit with a massive earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter
scale. The quake hit the remote western
region of the tiny island nation Monday morning (local time). It leveled buildings and damaged a hospital on Gizo island northwest of the Solomon's capital, Honiara. A tsunami described by witnesses as the height of a two-story building sucked homes into the sea as thousands of panicked residents fled to higher ground.


World Vision
has been working in this region for 25 years. World Vision's program manager Frieda Kana
says the earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated the area. "At least
60,000 or more people have been affected. Many have lost homes. They had to
spend the night in the hills under trees."

According to Kana, many people have died. "Communication
is really poor, so it's impossible at this time to really get the confirmation
on the death toll or the injuries."

Kana reported that the quake and tsunami delivered a "one-two punch"
to some villages. "Up to 20 villages have been completely washed away.
World Vision and other organizations are planning to deliver water, food and
shelter."

While World Vision doesn't have any programs in the region
hit by the earthquake and tsunami, that's not stopping them. "We have a
mandate to respond to any disaster in the country."

World Vision's Rachel Wolff says there are challenges
associated with this disaster. "There are still islands where we haven't
received any reports back. World Vision nor the Government (are getting these
reports), so we have no idea how many are affected there. So these estimates
are just based on the places that we have been able to establish
communication."

In one of the worst hit towns, Gizo, just 25 miles from the quake epicenter, we
have heard reports of deaths and numerous injuries, as well as reports that the
local hospital has been flooded with water, making it difficult for health
workers to treat the wounded.

According to Wolff, there is also another issue. "The
main airport in Gizo has been hard hit; the airport has been flooded. So
it's going to be a challenge even just to get there."

Meanwhile, families from Nukiki, Zepa, and Luta villages in Southern Choiseul
have been searching for missing relatives since the tsunami struck.

Beyond providing immediate aid, World Vision is planning to
help restore water and sanitation to affected communities since they have one of
the leading teams with these skills in the Solomons. Kana has already met with
governmental and other disaster specialists to begin coordinating this
response.

Since World Vision is a Christian organization, Wolff says
they're being the hands and feet of Christ. "Disasters are the one of the
best chances to show God's unconditional love, and World Vision is doing that
around the world and certainly in the Solomon Islands."


If you'd like to help World Vision with their relief
efforts, click here.

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