A powerful magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the Solomon Islands Tuesday afternoon, toppling tables and sending people fleeing for higher ground.
Although there were no immediate reports of widespread damage or injuries, Australia’s prime minister stated that a roof at the country’s High Commission had collapsed. After the threat passed, the initial tsunami warning was withdrawn.
Solomon Islands government spokesman George Herming told AP he was in his office on the second floor of a building in Honiara when the earthquake struck. He claimed to have crawled beneath his table.
“It’s a big one that surprised everyone,” Herming said.
“We have tables and desks, books, and everything scattered all over the place as a result of the earthquake,” he said, “but there is no major structural or building damage.”
According to Herming, there are no large high-rise buildings in the Solomon Islands, which has a population of about 700,000 people. He stated that there was some panic in the town, as well as traffic jams as everyone attempted to drive to higher ground.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stated that all Australian High Commission personnel were safe.
“There are no known injuries, but the roof of the High Commission annex has collapsed, implying widespread damage,” Albanese told Parliament.
“Because of the tsunami warning, staff have been relocated to higher ground.” Our High Commission is working hard to ensure the safety of all Australians in the Solomon Islands. There are issues because the phone lines have gone down. So there are communication issues,” Albanese added.
Charley Piringi, a freelance journalist, said he was standing outside near schools on Honiara’s outskirts when the earthquake sent the children fleeing.
“The earthquake shook the place,” he explained. “It was a massive one.” We were all stunned, and everyone ran everywhere.”
According to the US Geological Survey, the quake’s epicentre was in the ocean about 56 kilometres (35 miles) southwest of Honiara at a depth of 13 kilometres (8 miles).
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially issued a tsunami warning for the region, but later downgraded it as the threat passed.
The Solomon Islands are located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc along the Pacific Ocean’s rim that is prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
Death Toll from Indonesia Earthquake
Meanwhile, the death toll from an earthquake on Indonesia rose to 268 on Tuesday, as rescuers looked for survivors in the rubble and relatives began burying their loved ones.
Rescue efforts in West Java, Indonesia’s most populous province, focused on any survivors still buried beneath debris in areas made difficult to reach by the quake’s mass of obstacles thrown onto the roads.
The epicentre of Monday’s shallow 5.6-magnitude earthquake was near Cianjur, where the majority of the victims died, hundreds were injured, and dozens were feared trapped as buildings collapsed and landslides were triggered.
According to Suharyanto, the head of Indonesia’s national disaster mitigation agency, the death toll rose dramatically again later Tuesday, from 162 to 268.
At least 151 people are still missing, and over 1,000 have been injured, according to the official, who goes by one name like many Indonesians.