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Tsunami Survivors at Risk of Disease

Associated Press Published: April 6, 2007

MUNDA, Solomon Islands (AP) -- Diarrhea has broken out among children huddled in camps of tsunami survivors in the Solomon Islands, a Red Cross official said Wednesday - the first worrying sign that thousands of people who lost their homes in the waves may be at risk of disease.

International aid was slow to trickle in to survivors, particularly in the hardest-hit town of Gizo in the western Solomons. At least 2,000 people spent a third unsheltered night on a hillside near Gizo following Monday's earthquake and ocean surge.

A New Zealand military transport plane unloaded an aid package of tarps, water and food rations in the town of Munda late Tuesday, following a shipment of similar supplies delivered earlier by a police patrol boat. Six doctors and 15 nurses reached Gizo on Wednesday.

A supply boat left the capital of Honiara on Wednesday evening for the 10-hour journey to Gizo, but two others were delayed because provisions could not be found in the capital to fill them, chief government spokesman Alfred Maesulia said.

Frustrations were starting to show among survivors, many of whom fled the tsunami with whatever supplies they could carry.

"There's no water to wash, no water to drink," said Esther Zekele, who fled the tsunami waves with her husband and five children. The single sack of rice they brought to higher ground was half-empty, and no aid officials had come to their makeshift camp.

"We are just waiting, wondering why they haven't come," she said.

Getting aid to destroyed villages further afield could take at least two more days because of damaged roads, airstrips and wharves.

"We have not reached people as soon as we could ... because of the widespread nature of this particular disaster," said Fred Fakarii, chairman of the National Disaster Management Council.

Making things worse, many canoes and other boats were washed away or destroyed, and fuel was contaminated with sea water, Western Province Premier Alex Lokopio said.

At least 28 people were killed when waves up to 16 feet high smashed into the western Solomons following a magnitude-8.1 undersea quake. No significant tsunami waves were reported anywhere outside the impoverished islands, located northeast of Australia in the South Pacific.

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