By Irene Scott, Australian volunteer in Solomon Islands
The first sign of the disaster was an email with the subject line: 06-02-13 – - 12.21pm – SANTA CRUZ mag 8.0.
It had been a normal day at Paoa FM station before then. We were joking around the office, inventing games for an upcoming Valentine’s Day event.
As soon as that email hit the inbox, the station sprang into gear. Joel, the station manager, saw it and within minutes the message was on air. By the time we checked the inbox again the tsunami warning was in; first, a Pacific-wide warning, then a local one. Several provinces were listed, including ours, and reports were already coming in of a wave hitting Temotu Province.
By Matt Anderson, Australia’s High Commissioner to Solomon Islands
With apologies to James A. Michener, but ‘where do we get such men’? Those who, in a time of disaster and crisis, head towards the prospect of harm—more concerned with helping others than their own safety.
I met with two such colleagues—AusAID’s Eric Lui and Luke Simmons—on Saturday 9 February. I met them when travelling to the Santa Cruz Islands in Eastern Solomon Islands, following the deadly 8.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami. The tsunami devastated 25 villages and left close to 3,500 people homeless on 6 February 2013.
On Wednesday 6 February 2013, a magnitude 8 earthquake struck off the coast of the Santa Cruz Islands, an isolated island chain Temotu Province, Solomon Islands. The quake generated a local tsunami, killing 10 people and leaving up to 3,500 homeless. Food gardens have been devastated and fresh water supplies contaminated. Australia is supporting urgent supplies of medicine, food and logistical assistance. Photo: Matt Anderson/DFAT
The disaster has been catastrophic for local communities. Even now, we don’t know what the full impact has been. We do know access to some communities is difficult because of damaged roads and debris, water supplies have been contaminated, and gardens and fruit trees—a major food source—have been destroyed.
By Rob Tranter, First Assistant Director General, Pacific Division, AusAID
Two and a half years ago in September 2009, the Tavana family from Saleaumua village in Samoa saw their entire life swept away by one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit the small Pacific nation.
With the Tavana family out the front of the Caritas-built house. Photo: AusAID
I remember being at the Crisis Centre in Canberra as news of an earthquake that had just struck off the coast of Samoa came flooding in. The 8.3 magnitude quake triggered a huge tsunami that ripped through the southern Samoan island of Upolu.
Saleaumua, on the south coast of Upolu, was one of the worst hit villages. It was completely flattened by the disaster. And while the Tavanas saved all members of their family, they lost their home and all of their possessions while fleeing from the advancing waves.