Province of the Assumption

April, 2007

Earthquake and Tsuami hit Solomon Islands.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007:

A major earthquake, measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale, hit the Solomon Islands today. Its epicentre was only 45km from the Western Province capital of Gizo. Though the Cathedral of St Peter was largely destroyed - see the accompanying photograph - we are grateful to God that Bishop O'Grady, the friars and sisters are all safe. There has been extensive damage on both Gizo and Loga, however, and the sisters' house on Loga has been virtually destroyed.
St Peter's Cathedral with fallen tower, April 3, 2007

27 April 2007

With heartfelt thanks - Bishop Bernard O'Grady op I would like to thank all for your messages of concern following recent earthquake and tsunami that devastated many of our village communities and our own Parish Centres. Most of the people who lost homes and possesions are being fed and clothed and provided with other neccessities lost during the tidal wave that followed the major earthquake.

At first it was difficult to find out the extent of the damage suffered by the people and because many are still listed as missing. Fortunately our radio network was able to contact most them and thereby find out their situation. An American Naval Vessel provided two helicopters to take urgent medical supplies to clinics that had either being destroyed or lost their supplies. On one such trip I was able to visit two Parishes and see for myself the extent of the damage and meet the priest and people. There will be a huge amount of work to restore to normality the pastoral work of the Church. Also the people will take quite a while to overcome their fear of such a large earthquake and tsunami. For that reason many are still living in temporary accommodation in the bush under tarpolines and without adequate supplies of water and medicines. This is now improving as agencies such as Red Cross, and World Vision and especially Caritas have been able to move in to meet their needs. The next stage will be finding ways and means of preparing simple housing for them. Some in fact have already began to do this.

The arrival of the WYD08 Cross was a means of helping the youth of the Diocese to a better understanding of the suffering and pain they are enduring is part of the continuing suffering of Christ in his Church. It was truly an occasion for the youth to deepen their faith and hope.

The above is just a brief summary of what has happened here over the past two and a half weeks. Please remember us in your prayers as we move forward to a new life born of the suffering we have endured together. It has certainly brought the people closer together. Again thank you for your concern,

Yours sincerely in Christ,

+ Bernard OP

The situation in the Western Solomons is far from static. It would seem that the threat of more earthquakes and Tsunami has subsided in the Western Solomons, but there is a great hustle of activity.

Caritas Australia under the management of Mr. Adam Elliott who has been here for the past three years helping us is doing a fine job. A second ship has gone to the West. It is not only about bringing things; it is so important that places are visited to let people know they are cared for.

It was great to hear that Bishop Bernard was able to visit some places by helicopter. I am not certain as to where he visited; I think it was to the Shortlands and perhaps to Choisuel. It must be very comforting for him to have been able to go and show his concern.

Relief is reaching the areas in which people have suffered; that it is all happening perfectly is not the case. The very nature of a disaster is that lots of mistakes and oversights will be part of what happens. Miscommunications are the order of the day: that does not take away from the very generous response that is being made to the disaster.

Mr. David Kerr a very close friend of Bishop O'Grady OP has arrived in Gizo. He will be a great support to the Diocese as it tries to get back on its feet. He is a person with very positive management skills; such skills are very much in demand just now.

Mr. Patrick Rasmussen arrived in Gizo today. Patrick brings with him a great resource of counseling skills. He has worked and helped us to form our post ethnic tensions trauma counseling teams. These teams will work with under the direction of Patrick. He will access the situation and set the trauma counseling teams to work where most needed.

The overall scene is one of a wonderful response both internationally and within Solomon Islands. The arrival in Honiara on Thursday of the World Youth Day Cross and Icon of the Blessed Virgin has been a great event. Over two thousand youth were at the airport to welcome the WYD Symbols. Without delay the Cross and Icon were on their way to Maliata; where they received an equally enthusiastic reception by the youth. This morning Sunday 15th the Cross and Icon were taken to Gizo by Solomon Airlines. The decision by Bishop Bernard that the Cross and Icon should go to Gizo was one of great faith. I am sure that the Cross and beautiful Icon will help people to put aside their fears and get on with the process of rebuilding their lives.

The road forward for the Western Solomons is a long and demanding one. Perhaps it is true to say that the headline news items are now over. It will be a great logistical task for the Diocese of Gizo to rebuild what has to be rebuilt. The spontaneous goodness of so many must be an encouragement to them. When the Cross and Icon arrive at Holy Cross Cathedral, having been carried by youth all the way from the Airport, perhaps a 13 kms journey, as soon as it was set in place in the Cathedral an automatic collection for the suffering victims of the tsunami was initiated. Those who took the Cross and Icon to Gizo, took with them the offerings of the people. The actual amount may not have been so much, but the love and sense of wanting to help is very real.

I leave for Port Moresby tomorrow 16th April to attend our Bishops' Conference Meeting there. I will be away until 27th of April. By then our tsunami will no longer be news, but the hard work of rebuilding will be a painful reality.

If any one wishes to send funds through Honiara Archdiocese please know that simple bank draft cheques made payable to: The Diocese of Honiara can easily be managed here in Honiara. Please attach to cheques you send clear details of the sender with return addresses so that we can receipt you. If you have any particular use of the funds you want to identify, please do so. I am sure that Bishop O'Grady OP will respect your intentions. If you wish to leave the use of the funds to the discretion of Bishop Bernard, please say so.

At this stage my reports seem to have served their purpose. If your wish further information I will do my best to respond.

Thank you for putting up with me until now.

May all that is beautiful about Easter be with you all.

In Christ,

Adrian Smith sm

Nuntius Lingua Latina courtesy of Radio Finland:

Interest has been world-wide. Here is an item in Latin from Radio Finland!

De calamitate tsunami: Nuntii Latini

05.04.2007, klo 17.13

In Insulis Salomoniis, quas in Oceano Pacifico iacere constat, die Lunae multo mane terrae motus subaquaneus accidit, cuius vis octo gradus Richterianos effecisse nuntiatur.

Ex concussione ortum est tsunamum admodum vehemens, quod imprimis partibus illius archipelagi occidentalibus tanta vi impegit, ut complures vici et oppida omnino delerentur.

Quot homines ea calamitate vitam amiserint, nondum pro certo constat, sed timetur, ne numerus mortuorum multorum denorum sit.

(Reijo Pitkäranta)
CLICK HERE to hear this item read aloud in Latin.
From Archbishop Adrian Smith, SM, Archbishop of Honiara, April 9, 2007

It was good to get through to Bishop Bernard last night (Easter Sunday) and to hear the ring of joy in his voice.

They had their Easter Sunday Mass under the trees near to the Cathedral in Gizo. The Cathedral is not safe to use. The people found courage to come down from the high ground to the sea level and join in their Easter Sunday Morning Liturgy. They lit their Easter Candle and rejoiced in proclaiming Christ as their Light. There is so much hope about Easter. They cast aside their fears.

The ugly statistics continue to tell of an increase in the number of those dead, it is now over 40 persons. There are still those unaccounted for.

When I called Gizo at 9 pm last night Adam of Caritas Solomon Islands (Adam is seconded to us by Caritas Australia) answered the phone. There were sounds of laughter in the background. The arrival of the Salesian/Caritas joint venture charter was a good up lift for Bishop Bernard and the people Gizo.

When I got through to Bishop Bernard on Holy Saturday be said to me that Hosea, in the Holy Saturday Morning Prayer, summed it all up for him. Bishop Bernard repeated that again to me on Easter Sunday Night. I could see where he was coming from.

Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us; he has struck us down, but he will he will bandage our wounds; after a day or two he will bring us back to life, on the third day he will raise us and we shall live in his presence.(Hos 6:1-3a)

It must have been so painful for them to have had to miss the Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Holy Saturday Vigil liturgies. But they did come together for Easter Sunday Morning!

Now the long road of rebuilding confidence lies ahead of them. Twisted and flattened homes will have to be searched to see what can be saved and used in the rebuilding process. It becomes clearer to me the need to have a support set up here in Honiara so that the needed materials can be bought and shipped to them. It will be a logistic headache and a slow process.

The great sadness is for those who have lost their loved ones. They will have to adjust to their loss and get on with life. I am convinced that all the sleeping out at night in all kinds of makeshift shelter has given malaria a wonderful opportunity to gain more victims. Old people who have survived must be weakened, small babies who have been exposed to the cold nights trying to find a comfortable place to sleep will have lost their resistance to sickness which lurk in the dark in such situations.

Food gardens that have been covered by the waves will not produce; vegetables are scarce; mothers face a stressful road as they care for their children. There is such a need for Easter Hope.

"> For myself I an experiencing an "email cyclone": many are asking what is the best way to send funds. The banking system is, I expect, up and running again in Gizo. I have just checked on that with Bishop Bernard, I got through on the first dial, that's worthy of an "Alleluia". Anyone wishing to send funds can ask the bank to make a bank draft payable to the DIOCESE OF GIZO, forward it by air mail to Bishop Bernard O'Grady OP, Bishop of Gizo, P.O. Box 22 Gizo P.O., Solomon Islands. Please give sufficient information so that Bishop can send you a receipt. I am willing to act on behalf of GIZO DIOCESE and receive any cheques you may wish to send. If sending the to me please make them payable to: DIOCESE OF HONIARA. I will immediately deposit them in our Special Purpose Account DIOCESE OF GIZO TSUNAMI FUND. That account belongs to Bishop Bernard O'Grady OP. Again please make sure you give me sufficient information so that I can receipt you.

It is not all about money: please pray for courage and hope for all the people of the Western Solomons as they try to rebuild their lives.

We had a wonderful Easter celebration here in Honiara. I continue to think that the tsunami made us all hungry for a "hope story," and Easter is that.
Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007 - from Fr Henry Paroi

Dear Friends,

The supplies have finally go to their destinations. I spoke to Nila station an hour ago: the boat had unloaded food supplies and other necessities on Nila and is going around the Shortland Islands as I write this news. Choiseul is the same, and all other islands have been visiited so far. I have not heard anymore news about dead being found. I spoke to my brother last night on Gizo hill who told me that they were still outside, on the lawn. People are just too afraid to get back to the buildings at this stage.

The Dominican sisters, by the way, are still on Loga. I said in the last news that they left and were on Gizo. Only Sisters Dora and Rita went to Gizo, while Matrina and Maria Tom are on Loga with the five postulants. I believe they are using the volunteers' houses as well as their laundry as their refuge. I also spoke to Bishop Bernard on the radio a while ago; he sounded better and has been trying to contact his parishes. The chartered boat for Gizo diocese has unloaded staff and is on its way back to Honiara.

As for Gaomai, I just heard from them that people are still too afraid to come down to the village: they are still up in the bush. The boat is on its way to deliver the needed supplies. I had planned to get on another boat that would get me to Nila, but it has been postponed. I am not quite sure if I can make it since it is now scheduled to go next week.

Henry Paroi
More from Archbishop Adrian Smith, SM

Good Friday, 2007

Once again we are back at: "Sorry, the number you called is temporally out of service". It would be much more honest if they would say: "again out of service!" I called Bishop Bernard a number of times only to get a screech or the above message.

Facts and figures: you probably know I much as I do, perhaps more. 24 dead, some are now saying 30, the number of those unaccounted for over 100. 900 homes down, 5,000 homeless. Many wounded, 12 have arrived in Honiara and are in the National Referral Hospital. They have an emergency plan; they expect this figure to increase. Prime Minister pledges Five Million Solomon Dollars to the relief programme.

The tsunami did hit some islands of Papua New Guinea, (five killed?), Milan Bay Province, I understand. In Bougainville they felt the earthquake and there are small effects of the Tsunami. I think a wharf in Buin has suffered.

The Catholic Church Station, Nila in the Shortlands has suffered more than I reported earlier. It seems St. Ann’s Training Centre is badly hit. In fact the whole Shortlands story is worse that I had reported in earlier reports. Perhaps Gizo is getting more attention than other places and the patchy news we were getting from other places now seems to be coming together. Choiseul it would now appear to have more serious destruction thank first reported.

Munda airport is open. I had a call from an Australian Radio programme speaking to me on-line. "Easter in Solomon Islands and the tsunami, give the feeling of the situation..." I tried, but the question about Easter Eggs threw me. They'd melt around here!

Facts, figures, Statistical-data: everyone is hungry for them. They are important, but the mood of the people in Solomon Islands is perhaps more important. Holy Thursday celebrated in Honiara with joy in a background of pain. Good Friday, the Stations of the Cross were dramatized from the Honiara Market to Holy Cross this morning starting 7.30 am. When we arrived at the Hill in Holy Cross where they enacted the Crucifixion, perhaps the minds of many were as much in the Western Solomons as on Calvary. The darkness of fear, the sense of helplessness and the anxiety for news about loved one hangs over our people.

A Salesians of Don Bosco initiative assisted by Caritas Australia has chartered a ship to take relief to the west. 200 x cartons of 1.5 litre bottles of water, 170 x 15 litre bottle water, 500 x 20 Kg bags of rice, 6o bales of mixed clothing, 50 cartons x family-size Taiyo (canned fish), 1000 treated mosquito bed nets. 10 x 5 litre cooking pots, 3 x 20 litre cooking pots, 10 bales cooking salt, 10 bales sugar, 5 cartons tea, 3 x 3,000 litre water tanks. Before leaving the ship hoped to receive an open amount of the following: kettles, saucepans, clothesline rope, spoons, flour, cooking oil, bed sheets, batteries, torches, candles, matches, bath soap, laundry soap, towels, bush knives, kerosene lamps, cups, plates, canvas and wheelbarrows. Chartering of the ship could cost SBD 60,000.00.

This is the kind of thing that is happening. In all churches on Easter Sunday there will be a special collection for the tsunami victims.

The news is going around that the scientists are saying within two weeks another big quake. Dear Lord spare us!

I am not able to tell you if they were able to have any kind of Holy Thursday or Good Friday liturgies in Gizo. Perhaps fear to come down to the shorefront and fear as to the safety of the Cathedral made it a very quiet time for them all. Their cup is overflowing.

Please keep the Western Solomons in your prayer, the healing of hearts and the ridding themselves of fear is at the very heart of the Easter message. I hope they are able to light an Easter candle in Gizo.

+Adrian Smith SM
Good Friday, April 6, 2007 - from Fr Henry Paroi

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am now able to update you with some more news I have been able to recieve. More bad news is still coming through after the water has gone back, that means more news about deaths and property loss are forth coming. I have spoken earlier on about my village, Maleai but the latest I have got is that some 9 houses have been washed away. I have just got back for the stations of the cross and have spoken to a student from my village who is training to become a catechist. He and his wife have told me that their house has been washed away, so that they are very upset at the moment.

In Gaomai in Shortland Islands, I have just spoken to them that they are all still up in the bush, and that their situation is getting worse since they have not been visited yet by suppliers. When people took off to the bush, they left everything except that they were brave enough to take that two-way radio with them so that they could communicate and that is what is happening at the moment. This is Broher Michael Kisu's village. People are able to communicate from where they are. Their village has been destroyed as well as their beautiful chapel they have invested a lot on has been badly damaged. Toumoa village in the Shortland has also received a hardest, their small clinic has also disappeared in the sea.

Nila, the Catholic mission station has also been the one hit the hardest. The girls dormitory has fallen down (St. Ann's school for girls), and there are two Dominican sisters on the ground. I heard from the radio this afternoon that the sisters and others are still up on the hills. The students of Saint Anne's have been sent home except the Choiseul Island students are still there. The only clinic that served the whole Shortland Islands has been destroyed so that it will be difficult for them to distribute the needed medical supplies to village aid-posts. It had a generator, but it seems that this might haver also gone. Luckily in the Shortlands, there is no reported case of anyone who has died, and this is also the case for Choiseul.

The latest I heard from the authorites in both Western and Choiseul provinces is that the relief supplies have not got to them as yet. Most of the food supplies and others are loaded to Gizo before they are sent to other places. This means that it is taking a lot of time to get to their destination. I am still concerned with the babies that are still in the bush

I have just heard the premier of Choiseul province saying that he has toured the affected areas on the island of Choiseul: it was mainly the southern part that has been hit worst. The mission station on Moli has been hit since it is situated in the south. Br. Vincent OP got the two-way radio with him up into the bush so that he was able to communicate from where they were with the sisters and the mission staff

The Salesians (priests, brothers, sisters) have chartered a boat that carried some more suppplies to Gizo. It also has some staff for the bishop. I am also worried about my brother and his family; I spoke to him this afternoon and he told me that they are still out there on the grass with his children and some others. He said that his house has not fallen down but is alomost going to be unliveable. This might also be the case for most of the families on Gizo island. There have been many bodies recoevered so far, but they fear that there might be more from nearby islands, namely Simbo and Ranonga.

The other place in the Shortland Islands group (Mono or the Treasury Island) is still unclear to me what the situation is like. But all I know is that the island has also been hit hard.

There are many boats going to the West, and as I sat there on the wharf yesterday I noticed there were many ships all loading and heading to Gizo. I was on the run for the last two days with the Dominican sisters trying to load some food for the sisters and friars in Gizo. The sisters are particularly hard hit because they are scattered in most of the islands where the tsunamai had hit. We were able to put on food for the friars and sisters. Our Dominican friars are mostly on Loga, near Gizo while one at Sirovanga on Choiseul and the other on Moli on Choiusel also. But Sirovanga has not been hit, only Moli had experienced the devastation. Anyway, I went down an hour ago to check if the boat that we put on food staff had left, to my surprise it is still sitting there. I wonder when it will eventually leave for Gizo. I had also put on that boat a two-way radio for the brothers on Loga, it is again getting too late for where it is supposed to go.

I spoke to Bishop Bernard on the phone yesterday, he sounded not too good, but I think he is picking up after the shock. Jack McKenna is still on Loga, I checked this afternoon about his condition, he is okay. I am trying to get him to Honiara to have a rest or to perhaps get to Australia for a while. Bishop and Jack are the only two Australian Dominicans in the middle of all these happenings.

Some of you might have heard of a death of a bishop. That was a true story but was a bishop for the United Church. He was in fact on his pastoral tour when he died after drowning.

That is all for now and will keep you in touch.

Henry Paroi OP
Families safe at Gizo hill top
PETER Galo on Monday morning was drinking tea at his brother's Gizo home when the 8-magnitude earthquake shook. Out of panic Peter rushed out from the house followed by his brother's, wife and children - not long after the tsunami crashed into the family home taking with it everything. "All we could think of was the Gizo hill top and that is where we took shelter," said Peter, who went to Gizo Town yesterday to help collect waste timber from the tsunami debris to establish a temporary shelter for the family. "Currently we have nothing, all our homes are gone and what we desperately need now is for shelter, food and water." He said the little food they have on Monday was from Wingsun Shop, which distributed some of its stocks for the people. "What little we receive from the shop's assistance is mainly for the children because we don't have anything at the moment," Peter said yesterday morning. He said there are shops in Gizo but "what will we buy with, all that we have is now gone and even the shops are covered in water". Another villager from Vori Vori Pastor Fraser Luapitu said people are currently desperately awaiting the arrival of the patrol boats and ships, which they heard, would be transporting food, shelter and water to them.
Gizo telephone service in operation
FIXED line telephone and GSM mobile communications with Gizo are in operation, with no reports yet of any telephone lines down in Gizo. Solomon Telekom yesterday said telephone communications to all centres are also in operation except for Ringgi and Noro. However, the company said communication with Gizo and all of these areas is difficult due to the greatly increased volume of calls and power supply problems caused by the earthquake and tsunami. "We would encourage everyone not to make unnecessary calls to or from this area at present so as to allow emergency services their best chance of coordinating their response to this disaster," the company said. It said on Monday GSM mobile and radio equipment linking Gizo to Noro, Gizo to Munda and Gizo to Ringgi was affected due to the earthquake displacing the DC power supply for the equipment. It said a temporary fix to provide DC power was achieved yesterday morning. However, it said the GSM mobile is now active though there is not enough power to restore the radio links. "The lack of power to restore the radio links is affecting telephone and internet access to Noro, Munda and Ringgi. "Traffic to Munda is being diverted via satellite, however there is extreme congestion on this link. Engineers have arrived in Gizo yesterday to fix the DC power problem properly. "Main supply power in Gizo is still out of operation. "SIEA's generators are believed to be OK, however the power distribution network is badly damaged and prevents safe restoration of power," the company said. All equipment at Telekom Gizo is currently running on standby generators. There is approximately two weeks supply of fuel is in stock to keep this equipment operational.
Eagon assists tsunami victims
EAGON Pacific Plantation Limited yesterday donated $20,000 to assist those affected by the tsunami and earthquake disaster both in the Western and Choiseul provinces. Company President Daniel Kwon said that as a company operating in the Solomon Islands, they too feel the pain and sorrow that those affected are suffering now and would like to help in any means they could. "I believe that with the little donation we can be able to help the people of Western and Choiseul provinces who are suffering very much from what has happed. "We pass on our deepest sympathy to the families of those who died from the disaster and to those injured especially the children-we hope that more help would be made available to ensure these people are safe and survive," Mr Kwon said. He said they are more then willing to help again in whatever means possible as a result of their ties with these two affected provinces. "We have been linked to operate in these two provinces in the past - we call this an honour to help them in their times of need," Mr Kwon said. One of the company's representatives Katalulu Maepioh said the company hoped that their assistance along with others would help the people of the Western and Choiseul provinces in a tremendous way. "We hope that in every way we would again rebuild these two places hit by the tsunami to its original state whereby people would again live happily there. "May the good Lord help and guide us all in this time of hardship," Mr Maepioh said. The $20,000 had been donated to the December 2004 tsunami committee headed by Sir Thomas Chan to purchase assorted goods for the two provinces. Sir Thomas is currently availing two of his ships - MV Yandina and Compass Rose II to be used to carry supplies to Choiseul and Western provinces. Therefore, the committee appeals to the good citizens of Honiara to provide whatever form of assistance there is to be placed in the vessels before their departure today. So far some 500 bags of 20kg rice have been donated to the committee. The committee said as soon as the ships are loaded they would be travelled to Choiseul and Western provinces were the goods would be donated to the National Disaster Management coordinators for distribution. Those wishing to make donations should contact Sir Thomas at Honiara Hotel.
Police set up command post
POLICE have set up a Forward Command Post in the Western Provincial town of Munda. A communications link has been set up and has somewhat eased the communications situation between Western Province and Honiara. Overnight reports indicate that there has been considerable damage in the Western Province. Initial advice received from police on the ground is that a total of up to 20 people may have died in the Tsunami. Five people have been confirmed dead in Gizo, but there are unconfirmed reports that another four may have lost their lives there. Two elderly men are believed to have drowned at the village of Sasamunga on Choiseul Island and one person is believed dead at Sepa. No further details are available in relation to the number of casualties. Police have not been able to confirm the number of deaths that may have occurred. Reports reaching police in Western Province have raised concerns for the safety of a number of people. Police say at least 13 villages have suffered severe damage. Some of them have been completely destroyed. In some areas schools, churches, and medical clinics have also been destroyed. Police have concerns for the safety of a number of people. The SIPF have been receiving excellent logistical support from the Solomon Islands Government, RAMSI and the Participating Police Force. Solomon Islands Police Deputy Commissioner Operations, Peter Marshall said the first priority for the police deployed to the area was to set up a line of communication and then conduct aerial survey and report back with an assessment of the damage as soon as possible. "We have a number of resources deployed to the area. Obviously the challenge today will be to get the assessment of damage done as quickly as possible. We urgently need the assessment so we can decide what future resources we will need to deploy," he said. The Solomon Islands Police have chartered two Solomon Airlines flights to undertake a grid pattern search of the affected area in order to assist the PPF aircraft in conducting an assessment of the area. They commenced the flights early yesterday morning. The helicopter and fixed wing aircraft deployed to the area were yesterday required to conduct urgent medical evacuations from Gizo to Munda and Honiara. The police patrol boat Lata is currently conducting a search of the coastline and waters around Choiseul while the patrol boat Auki is searching the coastline and waters around the Shortlands Island. The PPF chartered vessel Jackpot is searching the area around Gizo. Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats are visiting islands in the Gizo, Vonavona Island and Roviana Lagoon. A PPF helicopter and three fixed wing aircraft are flying grid pattern searches of the wider areas hit by the tsunami.
PIF assists victims of tsunami
THE Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is to make available FJD$20,000 from the Regional Natural Disaster Relief Fund to the Solomon Islands following the loss of lives and property as a result of the tsunami generated by a large underwater earthquake in the western region of the county yesterday. "On behalf of the members of the Pacific Islands Forum, I extend our deepest condolences to the Government of Solomon Islands and the families of those who were killed, injured or made homeless by the tsunami," Greg Urwin, Secretary General of Forum Secretariat said in a statement yesterday. "The Regional Natural Disaster Relief Fund has been set up by the Forum to assist the immediate needs that arise following any natural disaster that affects any Pacific Island Country. "The amounts available under the Fund are not extensive but the contribution should be seen as an expression of the region's concern and sympathy." Mr Urwin added the Forum Secretariat stands ready to assist the Solomon Islands Government in whatever way it could to address the effects of the tsunami. "The regional resources of RAMSI (the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands) have already been deployed to assist Solomon Islands respond to the disaster. That assistance will clearly be critical in the days ahead." The tsunami has so far claimed the lives of more than 20 people and millions of dollars in property damage in the country's Western and Choiseul Provinces.
Taiwan provides millions for victims
THE Republic of China yesterday donated $1.5million to the Solomon Islands Government for those affected by the tsunami tragedy. ROC ambassador to Solomon Islands His Excellency George Chan said the government and people of Taiwan are very sympathetic with the loses of lives and properties inflicted by the natural catastrophe. "The embassy has consulted with the authorities concerned in Taipei to organise a medical team to Solomon Islands for medical services. "In addition, Taiwan is also arranging the visit of photovoltaics (solar power) experts to Honiara for upgrading the power technology and the living standard," Mr Chan said. He said Taiwan stands ready to render urgent assistance to the victimised and to provide necessary support to the post-disaster relief and rehabilitation. Meanwhile, Mr Chan conveys the Taiwanese president Mr Chen Shui-bian, Prime Minister Mr Su Tseng-chang and Foreign Minister Mr James Huang's concerns and condolences to their counterparts in Solomon Islands. "The thoughts of Taiwan are always with its strong ally, Solomon Islands. Taiwan will offer every necessary and urgent assistance for relieving the difficulties of the victims and help the reconstruction of the tsunami hit damaged areas," Mr Chan said.
DMC endorses PM directive
THE National Disaster Management Council yesterday morning agreed to endorse a directive by the Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare for the immediate deployment of a reassessment team to the tsunami stricken areas of the Western and Choiseul provinces. The National Disaster Management Office Media Liaison Officer, Julian Makaa told the meeting that 5409 people were estimated to be affected by the tsunami that struck parts of the two provinces on Monday. The Chair to the Council, Fred Fakarii meanwhile told the meeting that the council would be dispatching a second assessment team as soon as possible as directed by the Prime Minister to ascertain the full extent of damages so as to determine the level of assistance needed. He said an assessment team dispatched on Monday only carried out an aerial survey of the disaster affected areas and it reported that destruction was massive and widespread. Mr Fakarii said the second assessment team to be deployed on the ground in the tsunami destroyed regions would include agriculturalists and health and infrastructure specialists. The Chairman said the government would await the report by reassessment team before deciding on the declaration of the tsunami-stricken regions into a state of emergency. He said the Australian and New Zealand government aid agencies, AUSAid and NZ Aid and other international donors were ready to help upon the submission of an official assistance request. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has directed that all assistance from donors and NGO's towards the disaster relief operations must be channeled through the National Disaster Council (NDC) for proper coordination. The Prime Minister has also called on the appropriate bodies together with the NDC to immediately consider establishing a field hospital in Gizo as the Gizo hospital was badly affected by huge waves that has disrupted its operations indefinitely. On the other hand, the Prime Minister called on the NDC to ensure swift deployment of officers on the ground in areas affected to carryout immediate assessment of damages.
NDC officers visit Shortland villages
WATER, food, shelter and medicine were the most needed items by villagers in 12 Shortland villages visited by National Disaster coordinators on Monday following the tsunami. The officers include Stanley Mackenzie, Albert Binoa, Peter Haiea and John Messiah. These officers visited Korovou, Toumoa, Pirumeri, Nila, Nuhu, Gaomai, Koliai, Harehare, Sivilua, Aleang, Falamai (Mono Island) and Harapa villages. According to their findings, at Korovou village three police houses were collapsed, all houses of government officers were flooded by the waves with all their families' belongings destroyed including water tanks which were floated away in sea. The only business at the area Siru Store lost all its stocks by the tsunami. Even the fisheries centre building was washed away including its generator and ice making machine. At Toumoa village, the officers recorded that 20 homes including 14 local kitchen buildings were washed away including the people's cooking and eating utensils. The church building in the village was also destroyed, the clinic its medicines and the staff house were also washed away. The officers said the tsunami destroyed about 75 per cent of the village and what the people really needed now is for clothing, shelter, water, food and medicines. In Pirumeri village the officers found several dwelling homes partly damaged and two homes completely destroyed while all the villagers' basic items were washed away including 10 of the village's water tanks. The officers said what the Pirumeri people desperately need today is also food, medicine and shelter. The Nila Rural Health Centre is now completely destroyed with all its properties washed away including the clinic's staff house and the clinic's generator. Nila Rural Health Centre is the main referral clinic for Shortland Islands. The officers added that St Annes Vocational School and Dominican Sisters also lost everything with the buildings in their property partly damaged. The Nila Catholic Station Church building and Parish Community Hall building were also partly damaged and generators for the church and the school washed away. From the station and to Nila Settlement two dwelling houses were damaged. According to the government officers's information through the PFNet, what people in Nila desperately need now is for food supply, water, cooking and eating utensils and medicine supplies for Nila Rural Health Centre. Nuhu Village experience sever water problem and 12 homes in the area were destroyed. Maleai Wharf was also gone and Maleai Clinic is now out of service with no medicine. At Gaomai village, the clinic and all that is in it were destroyed including 10 dwelling homes. No casualties were reported from this village but the people desperately need shelter, water, medicine. The officers said at Koliai Village, three homes were destroyed, Harehare village four homes were destroyed including food gardens, a church building and properties. At Sivilua Island, the officers said the island sank and all houses were lost including the people's valuable properties. The officers said this is one area that needed urgent attention in terms of food, water and medicine. The only village visited that was alright is Aleang Village. However at Falami Village, four homes were completely destroyed with several others partly destroyed. Harapa Village no major damage was caused to the village but people have moved to higher grounds.
Displaced camp set up
A DISPLACED camp has been erected at the Gizo's Zion hill top to cater for people who have lost their homes at Monday's tsunami. A Gizo resident Allan Ralphlekelalu told Solomon Star from Gizo that hundreds of families have been affected and are now homeless as a result of the tsunami. He said that homes at Malakerava and the hospital compound were the worst affected because no houses were spared by the huge wave which crashed into the houses, animal and plants. Most of the people have taken shelter at the hilltop when the tide came after the earthquake which lasted for some 5 minutes. He said there are people who lost everything except for the clothes they wore. He said tents have been provided by RAMSI and other organisations but were still not enough for the people who outnumbered the tents. Yesterday another resident Derisa Derold said that most of the people spent the night at the hilltop for fear of another strike. Some have returned to their homes after the warning was reduced. However, many families who lost their homes and belongings are now taking refuge at the hilltop. Apart from the displaced camp, a medical camp was also set up by the hospital authorities to treat the wounded and cater for patients who have been evacuated from Gizo Hospital to the higher grounds. Dr Nola Pikacha yesterday confirmed that the hospital is temporary closed and is now temporarily operating at the hilltop. She said many patients visited the makeshift camp for medical treatment mostly from cuts and wounds. Solomon Star understands that those with fractured bones have been sent to Honiara for treatment at the National Referral Hospital.
Tsunami death toll rises
THE death toll of the killer waves on Monday has risen to 24, with half of it coming from Simbo as aid slowly trickles in – for the thousands left homeless in Western and Choiseul Provinces. Whilst detailed survey reports have not been released it appears that the tiny island of Simbo is the hardest hit in the entire Western and Choiseul provinces. National Disaster Management Office media liaison officer Julian Makaa said of the 24 deaths – 12 were from Simbo, six Titiana, two Gizo, Munda Rangoggah 2 and Sasamuga 2. A Gizo man told Solomon Star yesterday that thousands of people remain on the hilltop and were hoping to get relief supply – as they expected to endure their second night on the hill because of fear of another tsunami strike. The first boat carrying relief supplies arrived in Gizo yesterday morning. Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare told the national broadcaster last night that soon the two provinces will be declared state of emergency. Australia had offered AUD$2m for the tsunami victims, whilst Taiwan announced $1.5m assistance last night. As aid flows in, many more people are being displaced. The NDMO estimated that as of mid-day yesterday 5409 people were affected by the tsunami with 916 houses destroyed or washed away. Head of State Queen Elizabeth has passed her message of condolence so as the Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon. Governor General Sir Nathaniel Waena joined national and world leaders to express his sympathy yesterday.
Wednesday 4 April 2007 *UPDATE*

The following is a report from Archbishop Adrian Smith on the earthquake affected area of the Solomon Islands. Bishop Bernard O'Grady lives in the area that was most badly affected. I spoke to Bishop Bernard last night and, apart from some shock and fatigue, was well. All diocesan staff also appear to be okay. Among the casualties confirmed so far are the United Church's Bishop Zaku and the wife of a local Catholic catechist. Bishop Bernard said that Gizo's one fire engine, which has never been used to put out a fire, was helping to distribute water. Things will hopefully become clearer today when a diocesan team will be formed to look at a response. These are the people we will be working with.

Tuesday 3 April 2007

Here is an account from Archbishop Adrian Smith of Honiara:

Dear All,

It has been a long day of expectation, thank God it seems that the problem is more local than nation wide. It has been frustrating to hear:"Sorry all lines in use, we can't take your call" every time I tried to call Gizo. The Government Machinery has got into action and there are teams on their way to the Western Solomons to access the situation.Gizo township is badly hit, all the sea front area which is the town is a restricted area now and every one has had to move to higher ground and just sit under the trees. The earthquakes were continuos throughout the day. We hare in Honiara have not felt them. People are saying they did feel the morning quakes around 8 to 9 am. I did not notice them, others have told me that they too did not notice them. Those who did notice them said they were not the normal kind of jolting earthquakes we have on a regular bases. These quakes were more like a swaying feeling. People got up to check that it was a real quake and not just something they were imagining.

News from around the Diocese of Gizo reports that Nila Catholic Church area did experience the waves, the Nila Rural Health Clinic was reported in the Evening News as having been damaged. Other building in Nila Church area seem to be in tact. In villages near to Nila some homes were down. From Moli I heard no reports of damage, but from Taro Island which is not far from Moli people were forced to evacuate the island ( I am not certain about this). Sirovanga it seems reported no damage, that makes sense, it is on high ground. From Wagina there is no report. Loga Island where the Dominicans Sisters and Friars have their formation programmes it seems the seas went through the Sisters Houses. The Brothers House that is on higher ground, the waves reached the floor level only.The Sisters and the Friars are all up in the hills above there place of residence. From Vanga Point no news, most of the building there are on the higher ground, but at sea level their workshop and wharf (I got this information right now from Bishop Chris Cardone OP by phone from Auki, he had managed to make contact with Vanga Point. The Evening News told us that the Gizo Air Field is our of action, the waves went right through it and left a trail of debris.

The island of Simbo with its active volcano has suffered a lot. They people there are caught between their constantly active volcano and now the waves, they are afraid in move to the higher ground in case the volcano is about to erupt. There seems to have been a number of deaths in the Simbo area. The number now believed to have died is around 12 people. This is not confirmed.

In Monda they are evacuating the hospital and moving people to higher ground, they are using the community high school for shelter. The roads in the Noro area it seems are showing major cracks and unsafe to use.

I am putting together all these bits and pieces from what I picked up on the National Radio and the odd phone call and the local stories floating around. I hate to think of the poor people spending tonight in the open on the higher ground on Gizo and on Loga and in all those places where people have fled to the higher ground.

Around Honaira the fear feeling seems to have subsided. The warnings that were being given are now not being made. All we can do is wait and hear the results of the assessment teams that have been sent to study the situation. For the people in Gizo clean water is going to be a major problem.

I will try to follow up with a report tomorrow, I hope it will be good news telling you the waters have subsided and the cleaning up is taking place. I hope Bishop Bernard is able to sleep in his own house tomorrow and that there will be relief available to all who have suffered so much.

I just got another phone call form Australia but the caller had been able to get through to Bishop Bernard and the helicopters were hovering overhead in Gizo. Good news. The Cathedral is more seriously damaged than I had thought. The bell tower came tumbling down and part of the wall has caved in. The morning earthquakes in Gizo were very severe. Bishop Bernard has been able to come down to his house and pick up a few things to help him through the night on the hills. Many things in his house are broken as they crashed from the shelves during the quakes. Sasamunga Hospital it seems was badly hit the waves came inland up to 500 metres. For many of the small island in the area that would mean a large portion of the islands have been under water. The list of missing people is growing. Bishop Bernard is worried about a Catechist and his family. I better send this off before it becomes a book!

Please keep them in your prayers.

+ Adrian

Archbishop Adrian Smith, SM
Archdiocese of Honiara
P.O. Box 237, Honiara, Solomon Islands


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