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The 2007 Solomon Islands earthquake took place on 2 April 2007, near the island of Gizo, in the Solomon Islandsmarker. Its magnitude was calculated by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) as being at 8.1 on the moment magnitude scale. The tsunami that followed the earthquake killed 52 people.

According to the USGS, the earthquake was recorded around 7:39:56 a.m. local time (UTC+11). The focus was 10 km (6 mi) deep and 40 km (25 mi) South South-East of Gizo township on New Georgia Islandsmarker in Western Provincemarker. There were numerous aftershocks, the largest of which had a magnitude of 6.2.

Effects

At least fifty-two people were reported to have been killed and sixty reported missing when a tsunami triggered by the earthquake struck the Solomon Islands, wiping out thirteen or more villages. Thousands were left homeless, and damages are estimated in millions. In South Choiseul, waves 10 meters high swept away villages, gardens and a hospital.About 900 homes were destroyed.

The tsunami reached Papua New Guineamarker, with a family of five reportedly missing from a remote island in Milne Bay Provincemarker, which was in the tsunami's path.

Aid workers reported that an outbreak of diarrhea emerged among the survivors. However, the UN reported that the outbreak and other diseases were under control as of April 12. On April 18, a measles outbreak was reported and an immunization program was underway.

The island of Ranongga in the New Georgia Groupmarker was lifted three meters by the earthquake, causing its beaches to shift outwards of up to 70 meters. Large coral reefs in the area are now largely above the surface and local fishermen are worried that the fishing grounds have been destroyed. However, Australian scientists said the exposure of the reefs are a normal part of island building and that careful wildlife management can preserve the reefs that remain.

Response

Warnings

Areas affected by the main and aftershock earthquakes
A tsunami warning was issued for the South Pacific Oceanmarker, and advisories issued for Japan and Hawaii. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology issued a warning for Australia's eastern coast, from Queensland's Barrier Reef to Tasmaniamarker, and beaches along the coast were closed, while many evacuated to higher ground. However, as the epicenter was close to the Solomon Islands, the tsunami hit before the Hawaiian Pacific Tsunami Warning Center released the warning.

High-magnitude ocean waves propagate at high speeds close to 25 meters per second, which meant that they traversed the 55-kilometer distance from the epicenter to Gavo in less than 20 minutes. Fortunately, the S-waves from the earthquake shook the ground and alerted the population, allowing many to flee to high ground before the wave struck.

From Honiara, one of the first warnings came from the People First Network's Simbo email station, situated close to the epicentre. PFnet's Technical Advisor David Leeming relates that 20 minutes after the earthquake, Simbo came on the (HF) radio and announced the arrival of a huge wave that had washed away several houses and come inland about 200m. This information was passed on by telephone to the Hawaii-based NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre who then upgraded their warning to an "expanding regional alert". This was achieved before the 35-minute arrival time of the wave for the capital Honiara, which in the event proved non-destructive.The PFnet email station operators had been trained in disaster response by Manager Randall Biliki (late), who had previous worked as Director of the Solomon Islands National Disaster offices for nine years. All stations were equipped with UN-standard assessment forms installed on the email station laptops using Microsoft Access. Information was received from several email stations reporting on damages, needs and assessment information for several days after the tsunami, notably from badly-affected Korovou in Shortland Islands.

Aid response

Australia committed to contribute an initial 3 million AUD in emergency aid, later increased to 5.7 million as of June 2007.New Zealand gave 950,000 NZD during the initial relief period, and committed 7.5 million NZD over two years to reconstruction, as of July 2007.The United States contributed US$250,000 in aid.Taiwanmarker contributed US$214,000 and shipment of 1,000 kg of rice. France has also airlifted supplies via New Caledoniamarker.

The United Nations established a field hospital in Gizo, with a total of eight planned for the entire country, and also established three camps for internally displaced persons. Australian and Canadian medical teams have also been deployed across the islands.Papua New Guineamarker, itself affected by the tsunami, has contributed US$340,000 and a light plane that can better access smaller, more remote airstrips. UNICEF issued an appeal for US$500,000 for both the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.Separately, the Red Crossmarker has issued an appeal for US$800,000. The remoteness of some villages meant that aid did not reach them until several days after the tsunami occurred. However, the Associated Press reported on April 6 that Gizo's airport had reopened, easing the delivery of supplies. A Taiwanese fishing boat ran aground on coral reefs while delivering supplies, but it was successfully evacuated by a United States Navy helicopter. The boat's crew managed to free the vessel from the rocks a few days later.

Aftermath

Tsunami warning buoys to be deployed by the Australian Government
Francis Billy Hilly, the MP for Simbo Island where 11 people died, said on April 8 that those who had previously resisted resettlement away from the island's active volcano were reconsidering their options. The national government may also relocate islanders away from low-lying areas pending a review of long-term rehabilitation and disaster preparedness plans. The Australian government announced that a network of five tsunami warning buoys will be deployed along its Pacific coast, with two buoys stationed in the Papua New Guinea/Solomon Islands area.

Tectonic summary

The earthquake occurred along the boundary of the Pacific plate with, respectively, the Australia, Woodlark, and Solomon Seamarker plates. The latter three plates converge to the east-northeast or northeast against the Pacific plate with velocities of 90–105 millimetres/year. Along much of the plate boundary between the Pacific plate and the Australia/Woodlark/Solomon Sea plates, relative plate-motion is accomplished principally by subduction of the Australia/Woodlark/Solomon Sea plates beneath the Pacific plate. The April 2 earthquake's location and focal mechanism are consistent with the earthquake having occurred as underthrusting of the Australia/Woodlark/Solomon Sea plate beneath the Pacific plate, as part of the broader northeast-directed subduction process.

The Solomon Islands arc as a whole experiences a very high level of earthquake activity, and many shocks of magnitude 7 and larger have been recorded since the early decades of the twentieth century. The April 2 earthquake, however, nucleated in a 250 kilometre-long segment of the arc that had produced no shocks of magnitude 7 or larger since the early 20th century.

References

  1. Tsunami death toll on Solomon Islands reaches 52, RIA Novosti, Apr. 16, 2007
  2. Disease breaking out after Solomon Islands quake, Reuters, Apr. 5, 2007
  3. Communicable diseases under control in Solomon Islands, ReliefWeb, Apr. 12, 2007
  4. Measles immunization campaign begins in Solomon Islands, People's Daily Online, Apr. 18, 2007
  5. Indonesian coral reef exposed by 2005 earthquake, Associated Press, Apr. 14, 2007
  6. United States Pledges Assistance After Solomon Islands Tsunami, United States Department of State, Apr. 4, 2007
  7. Solomon Islands: Taiwan boosts assistance to tsunami victims, ReliefWeb, Apr. 5, 2007
  8. Solomon Islands Tsunami Aid Effort Gathers Pace, Associated Press via ABC/KGO-TV, Apr. 6, 2007
  9. Solomon Islands: UN aid workers start recovery efforts after tsunami, United Nations, Apr. 4, 2007
  10. Tsunami relief bolstered for disease crisis, The Australian, Apr. 9, 2007
  11. PNG joins in sending aid to Solomons, Radio Australia, Apr. 11, 2007
  12. UNICEF: Urgent appeal for funds for hard hit Solomon Islands, UNICEF, Apr. 4, 2007
  13. International Response to Solomon Islands Tsunami Victims Gathers Momentum, Voice of America News, Apr. 6, 2007
  14. Aid still days away for Solomons homeless, Reuters, Apr. 4, 2007
  15. More aid supplies are starting to reach Solomon Islands tsunami victims, Associated Press via WSTM-TV, Apr. 6, 2007
  16. Shipwrecked aid workers rescued, Melbourne Herald Sun, Apr. 13, 2007
  17. Taiwanese tsunami aid ship in Solomon Islands freed from reef where it ran aground, Associated Press, Apr. 14, 2007
  18. Shift Simbo tsunami victims: Solomons MP, Australian Associated Press, Apr. 8, 2007
  19. Solomons PM seeks tsunami assistance, Australian Associated Press, Apr. 16, 2007
  20. Tsunami beacon to protect coast, The Australian, Apr. 13, 2007


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