Deadly Tsunami Sweeps Solomon Islands

Richard A. Lovett
for National Geographic News
April 2, 2007

A large tsunami crashed into low-lying portions of the Solomon Islands northeast of Australia yesterday, killing at least 13 people (see a map of the South Pacific).

About 500 homes were destroyed, and the death toll is expected to rise.

Reports put the waves' size between 10 and 16 feet (3 and 5 meters).

The tsunami was triggered by a large earthquake, magnitude 8.1, centered 215 miles (345 kilometers) northwest of the islands' capital of Honiara. (See map of the Solomon Islands).

The earthquake struck at 7:39 a.m. local time Monday morning, and the waves hit soon afterward, washing as far as half a mile (0.8 kilometer) inland.

The quake occurred at the boundary where three tectonic plates collide with the large Pacific Plate at an average velocity of about 4 inches (10 centimeters) a year.

The tectonics of the region are extremely complex, said Emile Okal, a geophysics professor at Northwestern University.

"It is a very active area," Okal said. "There are earthquakes there all the time."

However, he added, "to my knowledge this is the biggest [earthquake] in that particular section … in probably 100 years."

Australia Escapes Destruction

The quake's epicenter was extremely close to the surface, centered only 6 miles (10 kilometers) below the seafloor, the U.S. Geological Survey reported on its Web site.

This may have contributed to the formation of the tsunami, Okal said.

Continued on Next Page >>


SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES

ADVERTISEMENT

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S PHOTO OF THE DAY

NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.