Solomon Islands

Solomon islanders survive Cyclone Zoe

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Cyclone Zoe battered remote regions of the Solomon Islands (SOI) in late December, but tenacious residents survived without fatalities, despite the incredible destruction inflicted by the storm.
Anticipation escalated earlier this month regarding the fate of the 3,700 residents, as the storm rendered communication systems inoperable across the region.

When rescue vessels finally reached the islands of Tikopia and Anuta almost one week later, officials discovered widespread destruction but no victims. Officials said islanders took shelter in caves, thus suffering only minor cuts and bruises throughout the ordeal.

The vicious South Pacific storm slammed the islands with 33-foot waves driven by winds of more than 200 mph, washing away most of the coastal villages on the islands.

"The assessment team found that damage to structures and crops on Anuta was significantly less than on Tikopia," Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told the Disaster News Network. "There are sufficient food supplies for two or three months."

In addition to demolished homes, buildings and churches, the water supply system on Tikopia suffered damages as well, but fresh drinking water has now been made available.

Relief teams delivered medical supplies to Anuta and set up a clinic in the island's school, which was not damaged, Downer also reported. Local police installed VHF radio equipment to restore communications, he said.

Efforts to get relief supplies to the remote islands were hampered by the cash-strapped Solomon Islands government, which was unable to pay for food, fuel and other supplies.

Despite criticism of the slow response to the Dec. 28 cyclone, officials said they were doing everything possible.

"Given the government's current financial problems as well as the weather in the area, we could not have responded earlier than we have done," said Loti Yates, director of the National Disaster Management Office.

As relief efforts continued on the islands, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake occurred 75 miles southeast of the capital city of Honiara, with a population of 50,000. There were no immediate reports of damages or injuries.

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