Page last updated at 11:21 GMT, Monday, 9 April 2007 12:21 UK

Thousands homeless after tsunami

Man sits in rubble of home in Gizo, Solomon Islands
Many are afraid to return to their homes fearing another tsunami

The Red Cross says up to 7,000 people are homeless one week after a tsunami triggered by an earthquake swept through the western Solomon Islands.

A Red Cross spokeswoman in the badly damaged town of Gizo said food and medical aid was arriving but many people were still camping in the hills.

Many people have been afraid to return to their homes because of fears of another tsunami, the spokeswoman said.

At least 39 people were killed when a wave several metres high hit the area.

Many homes in the fishing and diving centre of Gizo were destroyed or badly damaged by both the earthquake and the resulting wall of water.

The town's airport has now been repaired and supplies of food, water and medicine are arriving in a steady flow.

There are about 2,000 [homeless people] on Gizo Island and most of those have lost their homes totally
Susie Chippendale
Red Cross on Gizo

Shops opened on Monday for the first time since the disaster, and fishermen are selling their catch in the town's market.

But Red Cross spokeswoman Susie Chippendale, in Gizo, said tools were needed so that people could rebuild their homes and clear gardens to grow food again.

She told the BBC that more tents and mosquito nets were also needed.

"People are sleeping out in the open so they're very vulnerable to malaria," she said.

"There are about 2,000 [homeless people] on Gizo island and most of those have lost their homes totally."

Map of Solomon Islands

Others are too afraid to return to their homes because of fears of another tsunami.

Regular aftershocks have added to people's fears.

"You can see people coming back down from the hills during the daytime and washing their clothes perhaps or peeking through their belongings and trying to retrieve some things," she said.

"But they won't stay there, they won't sleep there and they won't come back to their homes and some of them will tell you that they never want to."

Medical clinics have been set up and health experts from Unicef have arrived to take measures to try to prevent outbreaks of diseases such as malaria and dysentery.

Gizo was only 45km (28 miles) from the epicentre of the 8.1 magnitude quake that caused the giant waves.

Many villages on outlying islands were badly damaged or entirely swept away by the tsunami.

A helicopter and Red Cross boats have been delivering aid supplies to remote communities.

Aid officials say the relief operation is going to plan and now they are looking forward to feeding and housing people in the coming months as people rebuild their lives.

video and audio news
The aftermath of the tsunami

Aid effort gears up for Solomons
04 Apr 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Eyewitness: Solomon Islands tsunami
03 Apr 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Gizo at centre of tsunami fears
02 Apr 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Tsunami strikes Solomon Islands
02 Apr 07 |  Asia-Pacific
How earthquakes happen
01 Jun 09 |  Science & Environment
Tsunami explained
19 Jul 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Deadly history of earthquakes
06 Mar 07 |  Special Reports

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