December 9, 2016 / 7:33 PM / 7 months ago

Solomon Islands scrambles to reach areas hit by second major quake

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A mother and her child stand near a damaged building in Kirakira on the Solomon Islands after Friday's earthquake, December 10, 2016. Mike Puia/World Vision/Handout via REUTERS

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Solomon Islands plans to dispatch emergency supplies to areas affected by a 6.9 magnitude aftershock on Saturday, a day after a much larger tremor triggered a tsunami warning that send hundreds of coastal people fleeing into the hills.

General Secretary of the Solomon Islands Red Cross Joanne Zoleveke said the supply boat could take almost 24 hours to reach Makira Island, which lies close to the epicentre of Friday's deeper 7.8 magnitude earthquake.

Both quakes triggered tsunami warnings which were lifted a short time later.

"We are working with the National Disaster Office of the Government and we've mobilised our emergency response teams to accompany the government officers and other international non-governmental organisations that are going on this boat," Zoleveke said.

Makira Island's airstrip services small planes incapable of shuttling the volume of aid required for the relief effort.

"We still don't have that much detail but we know people are really affected by what's happened," Zoleveke said.

Solomon Islands Red Cross Auki Branch officers distribute aid to families affected by Saturday's earthquake, at Malaita province on the Solomon Islands in a handout photo December 9, 2016. Solomon Islands Red Cross/Handout via REUTERS

Zoloveke said based on reports received by two-way radio, Friday's quake caused significant damage and forced people from homes in the town of Kirakira on Makira Island, about 200 km from the Pacific Island nation's capital of Honiara.

She said she knew of only one reported casualty, a 25-year-old with non-specific injuries. The remoteness of the region and the failure of communications meant it was impossible to know the full extent of any injuries or damage, she said.

Slideshow (3 Images)

Australia has provided A$50,000 ($37,235) worth of supplies and a helicopter to undertake an initial assessment of affected areas to help target relief efforts, Zoloveke said.

Suzy Sainovski of World Vision in Honiara said staff from the humanitarian organisation in Kirakira saw people fleeing to higher ground.

"One of the reasons we need to get them shelter assistance (is) because it's the start of the wet season here," Sainovski said.

($1 = 1.3428 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Jane Wardell and Peter Gosnell; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Christopher Cushing

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