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Tsunami in the Solomons: Before and After

At the Gizo waterfront in May 2002, a Solomon Islander surveys a pre-tsunami scene.

Handcarved dugout canoes share the shoreline with small motorboats. Many of the craft belong to islanders who often paddle for hours to sell fresh reef fish, bananas, pineapples, kelp, betel nuts and other foodstuffs under the pavilions and on the ground along the shore. The enclosed—but still lightly constructed—general stores and restaurants in the distance are typically Chinese owned.

Beyond the main street the island slopes upward, a lucky break for many Gizo residents, who fled to the hills at the first earthquake shocks on April 2, 2007.

Though a tsunami early-warning system was implemented in the region after the catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Gizo's proximity to the quake's epicenter meant that the waves hit before an alarm could be sounded.

"When you have a tsunami coming so quickly after an earthquake, it doesn't do much good to have an early warning system," Kerry Sieh, an earthquake expert at the California Institute of Technology, told the Associated Press.

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