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Tsunami in the Solomons

Apr 13, 2007
 
From Ann Hoffner in Papua New Guinea: A massive earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale, striking from underwater volcanoes near Rendova, Solomon Islands, sent out a tsunami that wreaked havoc on Gizo, a small town thirty miles north and the port of entry for the Western Province. This happens to be the main cruising ground in the islands. Tom and I are five hundred miles away in Papua New Guinea. We were supposed to be in Gizo that day, but were saved by the vagaries of cruising time.

Now we've postponed our own plans for a Solomons cruise, but our traveling companions on Auspray are taking down a boat load of supplies. Kevin and Trish are concentrating on non-food items and the plight of villages beyond Gizo. Australian forces were on the scene to help in Gizo and initial food aid is flowing there. Aceh spooked everyone, and people in reach of warnings (even in Queensland, Australia!) ran for high ground, but here there was no warning.

While village islanders can use traditional skills to rebuild houses, they've lost their canoes for fishing and transport, clothes except what was on their backs, and all the carefully accumulated day-to-day items like dishes, bush knives, flashlights, soy sauce, salt. Sugar. Pots. Containers. Spoons. These things take money to buy.

It was off-season for cruising boats. The handful in the area all escaped harm, and some have mobilized skills like nursing and building which we find a need for out here even in good times. Glee, on the sailboat Second Winds, who has been spending her days since the tsunami treating the wounded, says that the boats in the harbor "shook and bounced as if an exorcist was aboard" and though they suffered no damage themselves, had to watch powerless as whole villages washed into the sea.

Anyone heading to the area might consider a stop at a church or Salvation Army store for clothing, books, toys that would bring more than survival back to life.