Residents of flood-hit Solomon Islands remain without running water, as disaster management officials struggle to look after more than 10,000 people sheltering in evacuation centres.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has confirmed 17 dead in the disaster, with the toll expected to rise.
Flash flooding has swept away entire residential districts and at least 23 people are missing.
OCHA has estimated that 12,000 people have been affected by the flooding in the capital, Honiara, and 37,000 affected across Guadalcanal Province.
Joanne Zoleveke from Solomon Islands’ Red Cross says the organisation’s volunteers have reported extensive damage especially in the eastern parts of Guadalcanal. They were expected to send assessment teams into the area early Sunday.
Ms Zoleveke says her focus remains in Honiara and the people in the 16 evacuation centres.
“We really need to get on top of helping these people live comfortably and hygienically, and (ensure they) are being fed and looked after well. That’s our greatest concern now here in Honiara,” she said.
She says the extent of the flooding has been a big shock for many Solomon Islanders.
“We really didn’t expect it to be this damaging and I think the people in the evacuation centres especially are obviously traumatised by all this. So, it’s affecting everybody… and everybody seems to be concerned for those who are having a hard time at the moment,” she said.
Major infrastructure including the sewerage systems, water supply and main bridges have been badly damaged or destroyed. Electricity and communications have also been severely affected.
Flights remain suspended at Honiara’s Henderson International Airport due to debris on the runway and damage to navigation and lighting systems.
Aid workers fear outbreaks of disease in the city and are waiting for Honiara airport to reopen so emergency relief supplies can be flown in.
The National Disaster Management Office says its focus is on distributing food and water to people sheltering in evacuation centres.
Further Australian aid
The Australian government has announced it will provide $AU250,000 in emergency relief supplies to the flood-hit country, in response to a request for assistance from the Solomon Islands government.
Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, says she has conveyed Australia’s condolences to Solomons’ Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo for the loss of life.
She says the funding builds on the $50,000 in emergency assistance announced on Friday.
In addition, Australia will provide engineers and two Australian Government Rapid Response Team members to assist the Solomon Islands’ government and aid agencies responding to the floods.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has updated its travel advice for the Solomons warning of road closures and delays at Honiara’s Henderson International Airport.
Tropical Cyclone Ita
The low pressure system that caused the deadly flooding in Solomon Islands has formed into a tropical cyclone over the northern Coral Sea.
The Australian bureau of meteorology reported that Tropical Cyclone Ita was situated 1120 kilometres east-northeast of Cairns at 4am Sunday eastern Australian time, moving in a westwards direction.
It says the tropical cyclone is expected to remain well offshore for th enext few days and poses no immediate threat to the Queensland coast.