Entire villages are wiped out as a tsunami hits the Solomon Islands.
Information is sketchy, but the news from the Solomon Islands Monday is ominous. What we know is that a tsunami struck the island nation in the South Pacific. The dreaded word brings back memories of the 2004 catastrophe in which 230-thousand people died. Early reports say 13 people are dead, but that figure is almost certain to grow.
Solomon Islanders say the 8.0 quake was followed by a wave as high as 15-feet that left destruction in its wake. A massive undersea earthquake brought a tsunami to the islands early Monday, destroying at least one community.
"The wave went up to the wall of the Gizo prison," says Peter Marshall, Solomon Islands Deputy Police Commissioner.
Prisoners have been evacuated to higher ground. And in Taro, there is also a situation where the police have gone up into the higher ground areas with members of the public.
The tsunami swamped the island nation's Capitol of Gizo. The Solomon's are 200 islands situated across a region of volcanoes and fault lines where quakes are frequent. The tsunami damaged phone and electrical lines, and made many roads impassable - all of which makes relief efforts more difficult as the government struggles to get tents, food and water to those in need.
"We have every intention of assessing the damage as fast as we can, and as you will appreciate, it is a very large geographic area," Marshall says.
The Pacific region, from Australia's most popular "Bondi" beach to Hawaii, went on high alert. When the big waves did not come, the alerts were lifted, with caution still ruling the day. And neighboring countries began offering assistance.
"We'll do all we possibly can to help the people of the Solomon Islands," says Australian Prime Minister, John Howard.
There are reports of entire villages being swept away, villagers floating in the water and unable to return, and boats beached in the middle of streets. Survivors have also been seen huddling on hilltops.