- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2007

12:18 p.m.

HONIARA, Solomon Islands — Tsunami waves churned by an undersea earthquake crashed ashore in the Solomon Islands today, wiping away entire villages and triggering alerts from Australia to Hawaii. At least 13 persons were killed, and the prime minister warned that the toll likely would grow.

In the South Pacific nation’s west, where the devastation appeared to be centered, there were reports of people being swept away as waves plowed up to a half-mile inland. The magnitude-8 quake that created the tsunami was followed by more than two dozen aftershocks, including at least four of magnitude-6 or stronger.

“It was just a noise like an underground explosion,” said Dorothy Parkinson, a resident of Gizo, where a wall of water swept through the streets. “The wave came almost instantaneously. Everything that was standing is flattened.”

Some residents described a wave up to 16 feet tall.

“We ran for our lives, away from the waves,” Arnold Pidakere, a schoolteacher in Gizo, told the British Broadcasting Corp. “When we looked back, we saw our house being destroyed.”

Mr. Pidakere was among thousands of residents of the town of 7,000 who fled to a nearby hill.

Julian Makaa, spokesman for the Solomons National Disaster Management Office, said extensive destruction was reported in the western part of the nation. Details remained sketchy because communications were reduced in many cases to scratchy two-way radio lines, and emergency officials struggled to reach outlying areas.

Alfred Maesulia, the information director in Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s office, said late today that 13 persons were killed and an unknown number remained missing.

The magnitude-8 quake struck shortly after 7:39 a.m. six miles beneath the sea floor, about 215 miles northwest of the Solomons capital, Honiara, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Within five minutes, waves 10 to 16 feet tall roared ashore and went up to half a mile inland, inundating buildings and sending thousands fleeing for higher ground, witnesses said.

The Pacific region went on high alert for several hours after the quake struck between the islands of Bougainville and New Georgia. Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach was among beaches closed more than 1,250 miles away in Australia.

The Solomon Islands is an impoverished archipelago of more than 200 islands northeast of Australia, with a population of about 552,000 people. It lies on the Pacific Basin’s so-called “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanos and fault lines where quakes frequently happen.

In 2004, a magnitude-9 quake sent tsunami waves slamming into the coastlines of a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean’s rim, killing about 230,000 people.

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