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Another Major Earthquake Another Tsunami.
People missing after tsunami
POSTED: 10:17 p.m. EDT, April 1, 2007
• NEW: Several people missing, Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corp. reports
• Tsunami warning issued for other Pacific Rim nations
• Earthquake estimated to be around 220 miles northwest of Honiara
• USGS: 8.0 magnitude quake was followed by 6.7 magnitude tremor
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CANBERRA, Australia (Reuters) -- Several people were missing on Monday after a powerful earthquake in the South Pacific hit the Solomon Islands, triggering a small tsunami, officials said.
A tsunami warning was also issued for other Pacific Rim countries, including Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia, after the shallow quake, which had a magnitude of at least 8.0.
"It was just like a real extreme tide. We didn't get like a huge big impact wave," Danny Kennedy, a dive shop owner and provincial politician on Gizo island told Reuters.
"The water just came up about probably about 4 to 5 meters (12 to 15 feet) above sea level, and kind of just went up into the communities and doused everything," he said.
From the capital Honiara, Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corp. said residents on Simbo island had reported waves traveling up to 200 meters (220 yards) inland, damaging homes.
"There are reports of two villages hit and four people missing on the island of Mono," Solomon Islands' chief government spokesman, Alfred Maesulia told Reuters from the capital of the the string of islands.
Mono is in the Treasuries Islands, an isolated and mountainous chain in the far west of the Solomons. The quake also hit nearby New Georgia, damaging a hospital in Gizo, the provincial capital, which has a population of about 20,000.
"There are quite large boats sitting in the middle of the road. Many of the houses that were on stilts are sitting on the ground. A number of the coastal communities have been completely wiped out," Kennedy said.
He said the hospital had been evacuated and patients had been taken to a doctor's house on higher ground, with more than 2,000 left homeless.
"Everybody is in a bit of a panic at the moment because everybody is talking about a new 50 meter wave coming," Kennedy said. "You had a lot of people standing at the markets. Many of the people just rode it out in their boats, but a lot of the Chinese stores have lost pretty much all of their cargo."
The National Disaster Management Office said up to 60 buildings had been destroyed including houses, although there were no confirmed deaths, a spokeswoman told Reuters. Japan's NHK television said at least three people were reported dead.
"We are telling people to flee to higher ground in case an aftershock causes more waves," said the spokeswoman, who insisted she not be named.
"Communications are down, but at the moment there are no confirmed deaths. There are many reports of missing people."
Japan's meteorological agency said a tsunami of 0.15 meter (6 inches) was recorded in Honiara, and that were a tsunami wave to reach Japan it would be around 0400 GMT. Australia's weather bureau confirmed the height, saying damage was quake-related.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii placed the quake's center around 350 kilometers (220 miles) northwest of Honiara. The quake, centered about 10 km (six miles) below the surface of the ocean, struck around 6:40 a.m. (2040 GMT on Sunday).
The New Georgia islands are popular with international travelers for scuba diving. Most homes in the mountainous islands are constructed of timber and bamboo, with villagers relying on fishing and logging for employment.
Solomons police spokesman Mick Spinks said some tidal damage had been reported in Gizo, where a harborfront hotel had been destroyed, as well as Lefung and Taro.
Geological agencies, including those in Australia and Japan, put the magnitude of the quake at 8.1 while the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) revised its earlier estimate to 8.0.
Ada Akao from Australia's High Commission in Honiara said the quake was felt in Honiara but no buildings in the city appeared to have been damaged.
The initial tremor was followed around seven minutes later by a second one, centered further west, of magnitude 6.7, USGS said.
Australia issued a tsunami alert for the far north coast of Queensland state, including the tourist city of Cooktown and the Willis and Barrier Reef islands.
"We haven't actually had any reports of significant tsunami damage or tsunami waves, but it would take some time for waves to reach tidal gauges," senior forecaster John Turnbull from the bureau told Reuters.
The tsunami warning center said areas north of the Solomon islands should not be significantly affected.
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