Three dead, 10,000 homeless as floods devastate Solomons04 april 2014, 12:53
Flash flooding killed at least three people and left 10,000 homeless in the Solomon Islands' capital Honiara on Friday, with another 30 missing and the death toll expected to rise, AFP reports citing aid workers.
Entire communities were swept away as the city's main river, the Matanikau, burst its banks late Thursday, bringing down bridges and inundating the downtown area in a disaster observers said was one of the worst ever faced by the Pacific nation.
"The situation is quite dire," Save the Children's Solomons development programme director Rudaba Khondker told AFP.
"This level of rain has never been experienced before in Guadalcanal (the island where Honiara is located)."
Khondker said 16 evacuation centres had been set up in local schools to provide shelter for more than 10,000 homeless people, a huge proportion of the population in a city of only 70,000.
"It's a logistical challenge," she said, adding that roads had been cut and communications were patchy. "The east side (of the city) is tough to reach and in the west side we're still carrying out assessments."
She said dengue fever, already common on the Solomons, was a major concern in the evacuation camps.
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' (OCHA) regional director Sune Gudnitz said the flooding followed days of heavy rain which was still falling.
"The water has not subsided and flood waters are continuing to build," he told AFP.
"The depression is threatening to turn into a category one cyclone in the coming hours and days."
Fiji-based Gudnitz said OCHA was ready to provide assistance but at the moment the Solomons' government was "firmly in the driver's seat" in the emergency response.
He said police were reporting three dead and an unknown number missing. Khondker said at least 30 people were unaccounted for and there were grave fears for their safety.
Gudnitz said there was still virtually no information from areas of Guadalcanal outside Honiara and it was likely communities elsewhere had also been severely affected.
Australia updated its travel advice for the Solomons warning of road closures and delays at Honiara's Henderson International Airport.
The advisory also said there had been reports of looting in the city's Chinatown area.