- The Washington Times - Monday, January 4, 2010

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A tsunami unleashed by a major earthquake plowed into the Solomon Islands on Monday with the crashing waters devastating at least one village.

Initial reports said no one was seriously hurt.

A series of major quakes have rocked the South Pacific region since Sunday, with three powerful temblors striking Monday, including a 7.2 magnitude tremor. The Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Office said reports of the devastation were beginning to filter in late Monday.

The tremors were centered beneath the ocean floor near the town of Gizo, which was badly damaged in April 2007 when a 8.1-magnitude quake sent a tsunami crashing into the coast, killing more than 50 people.

Monday’s tsunami devastated a village on Rendova Island, some 188 miles from the capital, Honiara, disaster management official Loti Yates told the Associated Press.

“One report from police was that one village was hit by a 6- to 10-foot wall of sea water,” Ms. Yates said. “It was a total inundation police saw in a flyover.”

Rendova is home to about 3,600 people.

Ms. Yates said that 16 houses were destroyed and 32 damaged by the quake and the wave in Baniata village on Rendova’s coast.

“It could be several hundred houses have been damaged … but that is still not verified,” Ms. Yates said. “There are two to three villages where the situation could be much worse.”

Ten foreign tourists were staying on Tetepare Island, an uninhabited eco-tourism site, and the four Germans, four Britons and two New Zealanders were evacuated. Unconfirmed reports said two had been injured.

Ms. Yates said there were no other reports of injuries. “We’re lucky that whatever happened, happened during the day and people were able to hike up the hills,” he said

Two helicopters and a police boat were carrying out damage assessments, and a vessel carrying water, food and tarpaulins was dispatched from Honiara.

The U.S. Geological Survey has recorded eight earthquakes in the region since late Sunday. The magnitude 7.2 was centered 64 miles southeast of Gizo and followed a magnitude 6.5 tremor less than two hours earlier, centered 54 miles southeast of Gizo at a depth of six miles.

The latest aftershock was magnitude 6.1 and struck late Monday, 22 miles southeast of Gizo, the USGS said in a statement.

Pacific Tsunami Warning Center geophysicist Gerard Fryer in Hawaii said it was too small to create a tsunami. There were no immediate reports of damage.

The Solomon Islands lie on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones that stretches around the Pacific Rim where about 90 percent of the world’s quakes occur.

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