MUNDA, Solomon Islands (AP) -- Men perched on rocks peered out to
sea through binoculars at a camp near the Solomon Islands town of
Munda on Wednesday, watching for another deadly wave.
The camp is one of many that have sprung up in hills behind
towns hit by Monday's tsunami and earthquake. With strong
aftershocks still jolting the region, the 40 families huddled there
were afraid to come down, though some had run out of water.
"There's no water to wash, no water to drink," said Esther
Zekele, who fled with her husband and five children to the camp on
Monday as the sea surged into Munda, on the western island of Gizo.
On Wednesday, they ventured back for a sack of rice to replace
the one they brought with them, now half gone. But when they heard
a rumor that another wave was coming, they took to the hills again.
The fears of another tsunami have made it difficult for
officials to determine the number of victims and get aid to the
homeless. And aftershocks were pushing some survivors even deeper
into the hills.
"People are in a panic because of the continuous tremors,"
said Rex Tara, a disaster management specialist with British-based
aid agency Oxfam.
At least 28 people were killed by tsunami and magnitude-8
earthquake and authorities were checking unconfirmed reports of
further deaths, including six people buried in a landslide on
Simbo, another island in this South Pacific nation.
Authorities have no firm figure for the missing, but Solomon's
deputy police commissioner Peter Marshall said aerial surveillance
flights in the past two days had revealed "was no evidence of mass
Red Cross official Nancy Jolo said her agency had handed out all
the emergency supplies it had stored in Gizo, the main town in the
disaster zone, and was waiting for new supplies from a New Zealand
military transport plane that landed late Tuesday in Munda.
"The priority need right now is for water," Jolo told
Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "What we are experiencing
right now in some of the campsites is children starting to
Six doctors and 15 nurses from Honiara were among aid workers
who arrived Wednesday at Gizo, where the airport remained closed
and the wharf was badly damaged.
Many of the 5,600 left homeless were left scrounging for basic
supplies under buildings knocked down by the quake and sludge
deposited by the tsunami.
One police patrol boat arrived in Gizo on Tuesday after
traveling 10 hours from the capital, Honiara, with tents, tarps,
food and water. A second supply boat left Honiara on Wednesday
evening, but two others were delayed because provisions could not
be found to fill them, chief government spokesman Alfred Maesulia
"It's very difficult to get the materials needed because
Honiara only has very small shops," he told The Associated Press.
A New Zealand military transport plane unloaded a shipment of
tarps, water and rations at Munda.
"We have not reached people as soon as we could ... because of
the widespread nature of this particular disaster," said Fred
Fakarii, chairman of the National Disaster Management Council.
Many canoes and other boats were sunk or washed away by the
tsunami and fuel was contaminated with sea water, adding to the aid
Fakarii said officials had asked for two mobile hospitals from
Australia and New Zealand. Hospitals at Gizo and Munda had been
wrecked by the disaster, he said.
The quake, which struck 6 miles under the sea about 25 miles
from Gizo, set off alarms from Tokyo to Hawaii, testing procedures
put in place after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that left 230,000
dead or missing in a dozen countries.
Gizo's proximity to the epicenter meant the destructive waves --
up to 16 feet high -- hit before an alarm could be sounded,
rekindling debate about whether the multimillion-dollar warning
systems installed after the 2004 tsunami are worth the cost.
No significant tsunami was reported outside the Solomons, which
are comprised of more than 200 islands with a population of about