Terry Brown, the bishop of Malaita in the Church of Melanesia, and the rest of his diocese are “all fine” following a massive underwater earthquake that triggered a tsunami in the Solomon Islands. Early reports put the death toll at 15 and rising.
“We are all fine, only a small tremor this morning. But the news from Western and Choiseul provinces is not good,” wrote Bishop Brown in an e-mail to General Synod, the national office of the Anglican Church of Canada in Toronto. (Bishop Brown, who is based in Auki, the see city and capital of Malaita, was a former mission co-ordinator for Asia and the Pacific with General Synod.) Bishop Brown said the first earthquake that hit the islands measured 8.1 on the Richter scale and “lasted a long time.” He said that the earthquakes were continuing. “We had a slight tsunami scare this morning but nothing came of it,” he added.
The tsunami, which reports said measured between five to 10 metres high, washed villages away.
“Witnesses told of buildings being flattened and villagers washed into the ocean when a massive wall of water struck low-lying islands early Monday,” reported The Age, in Australia. “The quake leveled buildings and damaged a hospital in Gizo, a popular dive centre and provincial capital northwest of Honiara, and just 40 km from the quake’s epicentre.”
In a news release, the Canadian church’s relief arm, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, said it was following the situation closely and was waiting for more information from its aid partner, ACT International.
Meanwhile, Bishop Brown has also announced his retirement effective Aug. 18, 2008, after nearly 11 years of service in the diocese. Bishop Brown said that he plans to stay in the Solomons, in Honiara.