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Monday, April 09, 2007

Simbo tsunami victims should be immediately relocated to avoid future volcano danger: Billy Hilly

Around 3,000 people from tsunami-hit Simbo Island in the Solomon Islands should be resettled to avoid the danger of an active volcano, says their MP and former prime minister Francis Billy Hilly.

Simbo was one of the worst-hit islands with whole villages wiped out and at least 11 people killed by the tsunami which followed an 8.1 magnitude earthquake last Monday.

The estimated death toll has now reached 39 and around 6,000 people are living in makeshift camps in the hills.

Billy Hilly said the people of Simbo were too scared to return to the shore and many now favoured resettlement elsewhere because of the island's active volcano. The resettlement idea has been around for 20 years but the islanders had always, until now, resisted it.

Billy Hilly said he would take the case to the central government which would have to come up with alternative land for them if the plan went ahead.

"They are still traumatised. I've been encouraging them to help themselves but I think they are now coping quite well," he said after visiting the islands.

"On Simbo they are worried about the volcano. After the tsunami the whole island smelled of sulphur. They want to be considered to be resettled. Now they want it, they are really scared."

He said Simbo and Ranongga, the other island in his electorate, now received relief supplies but at first aid distribution had been too slow.

The quake had lifted Ranongga, with a population of around 7,000, up by around three metres in some places with coral shelves now high and dry, Billy Hilly said. Landslides had buried a woman, destroyed many food gardens and there were concerns about diarrhoea with people living in camps without proper toilet facilities, he said.

Billy Hilly said that in the initial stages of the relief effort, there were too many assessments, report writing and meetings when relief supplies should have gone out with assessment teams.

Source: SMH

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