Solomon Islands Tsunami and Earthquake Leave 19 Dead, 460 Homes Destroyed

A Solomon Islands tsunami struck as the result of an earthquake, raising the death toll to 19 Thursday. Friday local time, yet another earthquake rattled the archipelago's inhabitants again.

The Solomon Islands tsunami- a 5-foot (1.5-meter) wave that crashed onto the shores- claimed 19 lives, many of which were found after the fact in the debris of the South Pacific country. Nearly 100 homes were toppled by the magnitude 8.0 earthquake and resulting rush of water initially on Wednesday.

The houses destroyed spanned five villages, and the aftershocks of the quake scared many of them, preventing them from returning to their homes. The continued shaking could mean many may not return even today or tomorrow.

"People are still scared of going back to their homes because there's nothing left, so they are residing in temporary shelters on higher ground," George Herming, a spokesman for the Prime Minister, told the Associated Press.

Lata, on Santa Cruz in Temotu, seemed to be the epicenter of the earthquake. Friday at about 6 a.m. local time, a vicious aftershock struck, this time registering 6.7 on the Richter scale. Fortunately, some of the more low-lying residences in the area were saved simply by the nature of the geography.

"One boat from the Anglican church went out checking on some of the most remote communities today and reported that perhaps they weren't as badly affected as they could be, given that they are so low-lying," Andrew Catford, the Solomon Islands country director for disaster relief group World Vision, told Voice of America News. "But there's still more work to do to make sure that all the villagers are safe and to assess the level of damage."

The estimates for total damage are still outstanding, but as many as 460 homes were destroyed by the quake and tsunami, according to the Red Cross.

The Solomon Islands are part of the "Ring of Fire," a Pacific zone of tectonic plate activity that prompts earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions much more frequently than almost anywhere in the world.