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Solomon Islanders living in fear of the 'next tsunami'

Tuesday April 10, 2007

Solomon Islanders in the Western Province are living in fear following rumours and unsubstantiated reports of a new tsunami on the way.

While many of those living in hilltop camps on Ghizo and surrounding islands affected by the April 2 tsunami are homeless, others are able but unwilling to return to their villages as rumours of another tsunami reach fever pitch according to Australian Red Cross worker Susie Chippendale.

Ms Chippendale says fear is delaying a return to some kind of normal life for many locals.

'Despite the fact that communities are incredibly isolated, the bush telegraph is very effective. Rumours have been rife of further tsunami warnings and today I even heard in the street that a local paper ran a report warning of another tsunami within the next few weeks'.

Ms Chippendale, who had been working with a Red Cross team to deliver aid to the island of Ranongga, said continuing aftershocks and changes to the local geography also had an impact.

'The island of Ranongga has literally been lifted 2 metres out of the water. Locals we met in the villages of Pienuna, Niami and Varvovo believed that rather than the land rising, the sea had retreated and would return soon - in the form of another tsunami. They are living in fear and cannot begin to repair the damage to their gardens and homes until they feel it is safe to return.'

Red Cross is continuing to deliver food supplies, cooking utensils, mosquito nets and tents in the region and will step up distribution of implements such as bush knives and building tools.

Around 1,000 local Red Cross volunteers are being supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies with a team including Australian health specialist Marg Brewster, who was based in Aceh following the Asia quake and tsunami.