04/06/2007, 00.00
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Solomon Islands: 100 people are feared dead, risk of epidemic

5 days on from the tsunami, the Australian government reports 100 people missing. Relief agencies warn that dysentery is spreading among children, while clean water, food and tents are delayed in getting through

Honiara (AsiaNews/Agencies) – More than 32 people are so far thought to have been killed after an earthquake and tsunami hit the South Pacific Solomon Islands on April 2.  The Federal Government fears the death toll from the Solomon Islands tsunami may rise substantially.   The parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Greg Hunt, says it is now believed that up to 100 people are still missing: “We are preparing for a worsening of the known numbers of the dead” he confirmed.


Meanwhile relief efforts are gathering pace in the country's devastated Western Province. Aircraft are now flying in and out of Gizo airport, significantly opening up the flow of people and supplies from the national capital Honiara. But there are concerns that some of the worst-affected villages are not receiving what they need quickly enough, and relief agencies are warning of a fresh risk of an epidemic outbreak.  At Tapurai village on Simbo Island, where every house was destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami, locals had received only two tents for the 300 survivors who have been made homeless.


“It’s a race against time”, explains Oxfam Australia’s executive director, Barry Coates. Jamie Isbiter, head of Caritas Australia’s emergency team adds:  “The primary needs at the moment: clean drinking water, food and sanitary assistance”. Reports are filtering through of an outbreak of diseases due to polluted water while dysentery is reported among children in Gizo.  The greatest risk is on an outbreak of malaria “Our aim in the next stage of relief operations – explains the Caritas operative – is to provide suitable temporary shelters for the emergency”.  



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