Tsunami Kills Adventists, Destroys Schools in Solomon Islands

A Solomon Islands VillageSource: Adventist Review

[April 9, 2007] A tsunami that hit the Western Solomon Islands on April 2, killed at least 30 people and left thousands homeless. The death toll is expected to rise. The tsunami was triggered by a magnitude 8.0 earthquake.

Three Adventists died in the storm—a pastor and his wife on the Simbo Islands of the Solomons and a church member in the village of Patu—reports Melody Tan of the South Pacific Division’s (SPD) Public Relations Department. The tsunami also destroyed two Adventist schools and damaged another. The Adventist church in Gizo, although at one time covered by water, remains intact, but the Adventist Book Center in that city was destroyed. Many members’ homes were also reported damaged or demolished.

“We have a large number of Adventist church members who live in this area—probably one of the greatest concentrations of Adventists we have in the Solomons—and many of them have been affected,” SPD president Laurie J. Evans told the Adventist Review. “Their homes have been destroyed, their gardens lost, and they’ve been displaced. So it will be a long time before we’ll be able to get our people reestablished.”

Many people in the Solomons are subsistence farmers, and the destruction of their gardens means the loss of their major food source for several months, church officials explained.

Evans added, “We just ask the world church to remember those affected by the tsunami in their prayers and to continue to assist us as they are able.”

According to BBC news reports, Western Province Premier Alex Lokopio said the damage to the island of Gizo is so extensive that it “has to be rebuilt.” Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare described the destruction as “massive and widespread.”*

ADRA/Australia immediately made $10,000 available to ADRA/Solomon Islands for its emergency relief efforts. These funds will be released once the needs assessment is complete and a response plan is in place.

“The Western Solomons have experienced the worst damage,” says Andrew Kingston, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Solomon Islands. “Gizo’s hospital and airstrip are flooded. Kukundu has lost its wharf, and the school office is also flooded. Some houses have been destroyed.”

Phone lines in the area are not working and information is limited, reports Tan. She adds that Kingston will be visiting church members affected by the tsunami.

More than 16,000 Adventists worship in 90 churches in the Western Solomon Islands, a territory of the South Pacific Division.

To make a donation to ADRA disaster relief, go to www.adra.org.