5 Killed as Tsunami Strikes Solomon Islands

February 6, 2013, Wednesday // 12:43
Bulgaria: 5 Killed as Tsunami Strikes Solomon Islands
Cars bank up on McGregor Road in Fiji's capital Suva as the public evacuate to higher ground during the tsunami warning on February 6 2013. Photo by Fiji Ministry of Information

A powerful earthquake off the Solomon Islands triggered a tsunami of up to 5 feet that damaged dozens of homes and killed several people on Wednesday.

Five people -- four of them elderly and one child -- died after a strong wave hit the Santa Cruz Islands, which are part of the Solomon Islands nation. The death toll was expected to rise, CNN reported, citing a director of a hospital in the main town of Lata.

Solomons officials reported two 4 foot, 11-inch waves hit the western side of Santa Cruz Island, damaging between 70 and 80 homes and properties, said George Herming, a spokesman for the prime minister. Many villagers had headed to higher ground as a precaution, Herming said.

Earlier, Solomon Islands Police Commissioner John Lansley said local police patrols had reported that several people were presumed dead, though the reports were still being verified.

Four villages on Santa Cruz were impacted by the waves, with two facing severe damage, Lansley said. Other areas of the Solomons did not appear to have been seriously affected.

Disaster officials were struggling to reach the remote area after the tsunami flooded the airstrip at the nearest airport and left it littered with debris.

The tsunami formed after an 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck near the town of Lata, on Santa Cruz in Temotu province, the easternmost province of the Solomons.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a tsunami of about 3 feet was measured in Lata wharf. Smaller waves were recorded in Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

The center cancelled earlier warnings for tsunami waves further away.

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