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Fiji Time: 1:34 AM on Friday 25 April

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Rescuers recover body as three remain missing

Tevita Vuibau
Saturday, February 09, 2013

THREE people are still missing at Lata on Santa Cruz four days after a tsunami slammed into the island, causing mass damage and leaving thousands homeless.

Temotu Province premier Father Brown Bue said two men and one woman were unaccounted for.

"We found one little girl just this afternoon unfortunately she was dead and now we have three more people missing," Father Bue said.

"So far we have 10 people confirmed missing, the youngest was a 15-year old girl and the eldest is an elderly couple," he said

When contacted yesterday, Father Bue said about 3100 people were homeless but the number was expected to rise as more damage reports from around the island were received.

"As the reports come in, this number could reach up to 5000 people but at the moment the number that we have here at the office is 3100 people homeless," he said.

The premier said some villages experienced total devastation from the tsunami and earthquake.

"Four villages were completely wiped out. All the houses were destroyed, three more experienced 90 per cent damage and one experienced 20 per cent damage," Father Bue said.

He said medical services on the island were not performing at full capacity because of power cuts.

"We have quite a few injuries like broken bones that we are trying to treat at the Lata hospital but because the power is off, we are unable to cool some of the drugs," he said.

And with water fast running out on the island, Father Bue made a plea for help to regional partners to alleviate the suffering of those in Lata.

"Currently, we are without electricity and we are relying on water from water tanks which could dry up by the end of this week unless we have more rain," he said.

"We would really appreciate any assistance that the region could provide us with, especially any assistance from our big brothers Australia and New Zealand."

Meanwhile, aftershocks continue to be felt on Santa Cruz with many residents staying in makeshift shelters on higher ground for safety.

Father Bue said a plane from Honiara was expected to land at the cleared Lata airport yesterday with more government personnel to assist with damage assessment.

When this edition went to press yesterday, Solomon Islands government patrol boats were dispatched to Lata with food, supplies and an assessment team.

The US Geological Survey said the powerful quake struck beneath the sea about 76 kilometres west of the provincial capital Lata, on the large island of Nende, at a depth of 28.7 kilometres.

It was followed by dozens of strong aftershocks of up to 7.0 magnitude and the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre put several island nations on alert for two-and-a-half hours before declaring the threat had passed.

In 2010, an earthquake and tsunami destroyed 200 homes on one island in the Solomons, leaving about one-third of the population homeless.

The largest quake with a magnitude 7.2 happened at 9.30am local time on January 4 and caused the tsunami to hit the coast a short time later.

In April 2007, an 8.1 earthquake unleashed a tsunami that killed more than 50 people.