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Red Cross continues to distribute aid in tsunami hit Solomons

Saturday April 7, 2007

From Susie Chippendale, Australian Red Cross Aid worker, Gizo

Solomon Islanders affected by the earthquake and tsunami are visiting their villages to salvage belongings but are still too afraid to return or rebuild for fear of another tsunami.

Around 2,000 people on the Island of Ghizo in the Western Province are living under tarpaulins in hilltop camps of up to 500 people. Many thousands more are sleeping in the open on up to 50 islands affected in the region.

Some 1,000 local Red Cross volunteers - many of whom were also affected - have been assessing the impact of the disaster and distributing emergency relief items such as tarpaulins, cooking utensils, food and fresh water.

Susie Chippendale of Australian Red Cross is in Gizo and today visited some of the worst affected communities.

'I met many people who had come down from the hill for the first time. They were still in shock, picking through the rubble to find some of their most treasured belongings. When I asked them if they would return they all said no, not because they thought it impossible to re-build but because they were too afraid it would happen again. I found just one man alone in the village of New Munda working with a hammer and nails, starting the seemingly impossible task to re-build. He said he didn't know whether he would finish but he needed to do it for "his spirit"'.

An International Red Cross team comprising New Zealanders and Australians has arrived in Gizo and is now assisting the local Red Cross with distribution of aid, health supplies, water and sanitation, and communications.

The arrival of 60 tonnes of rice has also relieved temporary food shortages experienced due to isolation of the island communities and damage to the airstrip caused by the earthquake.