At Least 5 Killed, Homes Swept Away After Powerful 8.0 Quake Triggers 3-Foot Tsunami In the South Pacific

At least five people have been killed after a strong earthquake in the South Pacific generated a 3-foot tsunami that aid workers say has washed away homes and wiped out remote island communities.

Houses were shifted up to 30ft by a tidal surge and there are reports of people and fishing boats being washed out to sea, according to local volunteers for humanitarian charity, World Vision.

The magnitude 8.0 quake struck Wednesday about 3 miles under the Santa Cruz Islands, a thinly-populated part of the Solomon Islands which lie east of Papua New Guinea and north-east of Australia, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

A 3-foot wave hit near the town of Lata, swamping some villages and the town's main airport as people fled to safety on higher ground, Reuters said.

There was no tsunami threat to Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. 

Reuters reported that Lata hospital's director of nursing, Augustine Pilve, told New Zealand television that five people had been killed, including a boy aged about 10. Pilve added that more casualties were possible as officials were making their way to villages that may have been hit.

It was not immediately clear if the deaths were caused by the tremor or the tidal surge.

World Vision said two communities in the province of Temotu had been "almost entirely wiped out by a one metre sea surge."

In the town of Venga, with a population of about 750, homes were shifted up to 30ft, leaving about 90 per cent of them damaged. Nela, with a population of almost 200 people, saw 95 per cent of its homes washed away, the charity said.

"I am currently walking through one community [in Lata], and I'm knee-deep in water," Jeremiah Tabua, World Vision's emergency response coordinator in the Solomon Islands, said in a statement released by the charity. "I can see a number of houses that have been swept away by the surge."

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Becky Bratu and Alastair Jamieson
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