SOLOMON Islands Temotu Province premier Father Brown Beu thought it was the end of the world.
"When I saw the wave coming, I thought, 'Oh my God, this is the end of us'."
As Solomon Government officials travelled to the island to survey the damage yesterday, Fr Beu relived those moments before the tsunami hit the island of Santa Cruz .
Speaking to The Fiji Times from the island, Fr Beu said the tsunami caught people by surprise because it came without warning.
"What normally happens is that after an earthquake, we have a certain amount of time where the water will draw back and the waves roll in," Fr Beu explained.
"But this was not the case yesterday (Wednesday). Right after the earthquake, in under 10 minutes, the first wave rushed right through Nela Village at the western-end of Lata," he said.
He said people began fleeing to higher ground after the earthquake in anticipation of the wave that ripped through homes and plantation across the island.
"The wave washed houses and debris right into the airport terminal and also on to the runway," Fr Beu said.
"There were even some people who were actually swimming in the waves. They were wading and trying to get away from the water before the wave washed out," he said.
"We were all caught unaware. All people could grab were their children. A few managed to grab some of their belongings but the rest couldn't take anything else before they fled for the hills."
He said reports coming to his office listed 12 villages badly affected by the tsunami.
However, Fr Beu said that he was thankful that people did not panic and were organised as they evacuated to higher ground. He was also thankful that the tsunami did not strike at night. "I thank God that the tsunami came in the day. If it had happened at night, the people in all those villages would have been killed," he said.