A major magnitude 8.0 earthquake jolted the Solomon Islands yesterday with small tsunami waves buffeting Pacific coasts, leaving at least five people dead and dozens of homes damaged or destroyed.
A quake-generated wave of just under 1m reached parts of the Solomons, and Vanuatu and New Caledonia also reported rising sea levels, before a region-wide tsunami alert was lifted.
Sirens were heard in Fiji, locals said.
“Chaos in the streets of Suva as everyone tries to avoid the tsunami!!” Ratu Nemani Tebana tweeted from the Fiji capital.
The waves reached as far away as Japan. Japan’s Meteorological Agency reported a 20cm wave hitting the Ogasawara island chain south of Tokyo eight hours after the quake struck.
Smaller waves were later recorded on Japan’s main island of Honshu.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center canceled its regional alert for Pacific-island nations at 3:50am, about two-and-a-half hours after the quake struck at 1:12am near the Santa Cruz Islands in the Solomons.
Australian and US monitors said a tsunami wave measuring 91cm washed into the town of Lata, on the main Santa Cruz island of Ndende.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the wave appeared to have traveled 500m inland, inundating Lata’s airstrip and surrounding villages, flattening many traditional houses.
“We can report five dead and three injured. One of the dead was a male child, three were elderly women and one an elderly man,” said Chris Rogers, a nurse at Lata Hospital.
Solomons Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo’s office said four villages on the Santa Cruz Islands had been hit by the tsunami.
“Latest reports suggest that between 60 to 70 homes have been damaged by waves crashing into at least four villages on Santa Cruz Islands,” said George Herming, Lilo’s spokesman.
“At this stage, authorities are still trying to establish the exact number and extent of damage. Communication to [the] Santa Cruz Islands is difficult due to the remoteness of the islands,” he said.
With Lata’s airstrip out of commission, officials were hoping to fly over the area early today to better assess the damage.
The US Geological Survey said the quake struck the Santa Cruz Islands, which have been rocked by a series of strong tremors over the past week, at a depth of 28.7km.
About 20 aftershocks were recorded, including one at magnitude 6.6.
In Taipei, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said none of the staff of the Republic of China embassy was injured in the quake, which was not felt in the capital, Honiara.
The embassy has made contact with all Taiwanese businesspeople and other nationals in the Solomon Islands and no injuries have been reported, he said.
Additional reporting by CNA