by Staff Writers
Honiara (AFP) Feb 10, 2013
A third powerful aftershock rattled the Solomon Islands in the early hours of Monday as aid agencies struggled to get a clear picture of the devastation five days after a 8.0-magnitude quake triggered a deadly tsunami.
The confirmed death toll rose to 10 with the discovery of a child's body in a ditch in the remote Santa Cruz Islands Sunday, while more than 3,000 people are squatting in shelters after their homes were destroyed.
Two boats carrying urgently needed supplies of medicine, food, water and tents have arrived at Lata, the main town in the island group, but the fragile communications system meant further shipments were on hold.
Officials in the capital Honiara said they had not been able to receive full assessments of the situation in the outlying islands.
"At the moment we don't know if we are still in the relief stage or have moved to the recovery stage," Red Cross secretary general for the Solomon Islands, Joanne Zoleveke, told AFP.
"We don't know if what we have sent is sufficient or if more is required and we have to charter more boats. We can't make those decisions until we receive assessment reports from Lata and communications are intermittent."
A 6.3 magnitude earthquake jolted the region early Monday and was centred 51 kilometres (32 miles) southwest of Lata at a depth of 35 kilometres (21.7 miles).
It followed a 6.5-magnitude quake early Sunday which was centred just 29 kilometres (18 miles) south-southwest of Lata at a depth of 18 kilometres, and a 7.0 aftershock late Friday night.
The Solomon Islands government has declared the Santa Cruz Islands a disaster area. Aerial surveys indicate most of the damage is confined to the Lata region.
It was estimated about 590 houses had been destroyed, with most of the destruction caused in the initial earthquake on Wednesday and the metre-high tsunami which swept through coastal villages soon after.
Initial reports put the death toll at 13, but Zoleveke said the intermittent communications with Lata indicated it was not that high.
"The official death toll is now 10 as of last night. The body of a child was found in a ditch," she said.
Australia pledged additional aid Sunday, with Foreign Minister Bob Carr travelling to the Solomon Islands to tour tsunami-wrecked areas. Canberra has already donated $250,000 to the local Red Cross.
Carr announced funding for an emergency flight of three doctors and three nurses to the devastation zone, with the return flight due to ferry severely injured patients back to the capital for treatment.
"We're deploying two AUSAID workers to get into Lata to assess the damage and help coordinate relief, and a medical flight to the disaster zone," he said.
"We'll fund the evacuation of two people injured in the tsunami to get hospital treatment elsewhere in the Solomons."
The Solomons are part of the "Ring of Fire", a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific that is subject to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
In 2007 a tsunami following an 8.0-magnitude earthquake killed at least 52 people in the Solomons and left thousands homeless.
Strong 7.0 quake rattles buildings in Colombia
The quake was felt as far away as Quito, Ecuador and Bogota, where buildings swayed under the force of the tremor, which the US Geological Survey said measured a strong 7.0 on the moment magnitude scale.
Authorities said the quake struck at a depth of 129 kilometers (80 miles) at 1416 GMT, 11 kilometers (7 miles) southwest of Pasto, Colombia, a city of 400,000 people that lies at the foot of the Galeras volcano.
Eight people were injured and a total of 143 buildings were damaged, with the destruction concentrated in 17 municipalities in southwestern Colombia, the national disaster risk management unit said via Twitter.
However, "there are no deaths, no missing and no reports of serious damage," its director, Carlos Ivan Marquez, told reporters.
One of the wounded was a child who fell from the second floor of a building and broke a leg, he said.
In Cali, Ecuador's third largest city, a clinic was evacuated. In the town of San Pedro a church collapsed, apparently without causing any casualties, according to officials.
Bogota's mayor, Gustavo Petro, tweeted that there were "no reports of injuries or damage." But he said some tall buildings were evacuated.
In Ecuador, firefighters took to Twitter to urge residents of the capital Quito to remain calm and take necessary precautions.
Local media said a transformer exploded, knocking out power to the center of the Ecuadoran city of Esmeralda, near the border with Colombia.
The quake was situated 199 kilometers (123 miles) northeast of Quito and 168 kilometers (104 miles) southwest of the Colombian city of Popayan, the USGS said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said the event did not generate a destructive tsunami.
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