Beachgoers at Bondi Beach in Sydney went into the water yesterday, ignoring a sign about the beach's closure. Beaches along Australia's Pacific coast were closed due to a tsunami warning after a magnitude-8 earthquake struck off the Solomon Islands.
Quake triggers large tsunami
A huge temblor in the South Pacific kills at least eight people in the Solomon Islands
HONIARA, Solomon Islands » A massive undersea earthquake sent a tsunami crashing into the South Pacific nation of Solomon Islands today (yesterday, Hawaii time), wiping away entire villages. At least eight people were reported killed, and the toll was expected to rise, officials said.
Undersea quake triggers tsunami
A deadly tsunami crashed into the Solomon Islands today (yesterday, Hawaii time), underscoring serious concerns in Hawaii that public complacency could someday cost the islands many lives.
Authorities said a massive undersea earthquake sent a tsunami crashing into the South Pacific nation, destroying at least one town, killing at least eight people and leaving scores homeless.
The Pacific region, from Australia to Hawaii, went on high alert for several hours after the magnitude-8 quake struck between the islands of Bougainville and New Georgia, though officials canceled a regionwide tsunami warning after the danger period passed.
The deadly Solomon tsunami underscores the potential dangers that Hawaii residents face, and at least one official is calling for mandatory tsunami education in the schools and the visitor industry.
To officials the earthquakes of Oct. 15 were a clear example that more education is needed. On that day, most residents living along the coast failed to move to higher ground.
All the money being spent to improve the tsunami warning system is a waste if people respond as they did during the earthquakes, said Dan Walker, tsunami adviser to Oahu's Department of Emergency Management.
The Pacific region, from Australia to Hawaii, went on high alert for several hours after the magnitude-8 quake struck between the islands of Bougainville and New Georgia, with beaches closed more than 1,250 miles away.
But the regionwide warnings were downgraded as the danger period passed. There was no repeat of the Dec. 26, 2004, disaster, when a magnitude-9 quake sent massive waves slamming into the coastlines of a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean's rim, killing or leaving missing about 230,000 people.
In the Solomons, residents said a wave several feet high roared ashore at Gizo, a regional center in the country's west just 25 miles from the temblor's epicenter, within five minutes of the bone-rattling earthquake.
"There wasn't any warning -- the warning was the earth tremors," Alex Lokopio, premier of Western province, told New Zealand's National Radio. "It shook us very, very strongly and we were frightened, and all of a sudden the sea was rising up."
The water "moved toward the island and hit all the houses on the coastal area, and all of their property was washed away to the open sea," he said.
He said up to 4,000 people had fled to a hill behind the town and could be in need of emergency shelter and other supplies.
Resident Judith Kennedy said water "right up to your head" swept through the town.
Her father, dive shop owner Danny Kennedy, estimated the wave's height at 10 feet.
Reports of casualties were varied as communications to the area remained patchy.
Lokopio said most government offices and other main buildings in downtown Gizo had been badly damaged, along with police stations and at least one hospital.
Munda, another town in Western province, was also believed to be badly damaged, officials and the national broadcaster said. There also were reports that smaller villages, often consisting of wooden shacks, were badly affected.
Solomon Islands Deputy Police Commissioner Peter Marshall said a plane would fly over the devastated area later today to assess damage.
The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning bulletin for the Solomon Islands and neighboring Papua New Guinea, and a lower-level alert for most South Pacific countries and Australia. The alert was later lifted.
Australian officials closed beaches along the length of the country's east coast, from near the Great Barrier Reef in the north to Sydney and its famous Bondi beach in the south.
The tsunami appeared to be localized, with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center recording a surge of just 6 inches in Honiara.