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Seven men were on the ocean when earthquakes hit

By Douglas Marau HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 6, 2010) – In the Solomon Islands, seven fishermen from Viru village in Marovo, Western Province, are reported missing after two powerful earthquakes rocked the province on Monday morning.

[PIR editor’s note: By far the largest in the Solomon Islands, Western Province is 8,573 square kilometers and has 19 percent of the population. The Western Province is considered the tourism mecca of the Solomon Islands.]

Provincial Police Commander Inspector Hilton Hoala told the Solomon Star from Munda yesterday the seven were out fishing on Monday morning when the earthquakes struck.

They are yet to return.

Inspector Hoala said he has received reports from officers at Seghe Police station that villagers from Viru reported the missing men to police.

"I have received reports that the seven men left before the two earthquakes struck," Mr. Hoala said.

"They went from Viru Harbour on their way to Tetepare and as of today police in Seghe are yet to confirm if they have returned," he said.

It is believed the fishermen were caught in the middle of the two big earthquakes that struck at two different occasions on Monday.

However, Inspector Hoala said it was still too early to decide the fate of the seven men.

"It is not right to draw any conclusions at this stage," he said.

The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) yesterday morning has also confirmed reports of the seven missing men.

NDMO’s Media Officer Julian Maka’a told the Solomon Star that they have heard of the seven missing fishermen but they are still liaising with Gizo police to confirm.

Attempts to speak to NDMO and Inspector Hoala again last night to confirm the seven men’s whereabouts were unsuccessful.

Monday’s earthquakes generated big waves that struck at several coastal villages, destroying homes and properties.

There were no tsunami warnings, but villagers were advised to move to higher grounds for safety reasons.

The Government had dispatched relief supplies to affected areas on board patrol boat Lata on Monday evening.

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