Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand’s aid contribution to the Solomon Islands is likely to increase considerably, once the damage caused by devastating floods has been assessed.
New Zealand has already contributed NZD$300,000 in immediate aid, and an air force Hercules was to leave for the capital Honiara this morning, with critical aid supplies.
The Solomons have been ravaged by heavy rain and huge floods last week with the major damage in Honiara coming after the Mataniko River, which runs through Chinatown and the business district, burst its banks.
Entire houses have been swept out to sea and on Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said the official death toll was at 21. That was still expected to rise with more people still missing.
The misery of the people was compounded early Sunday morning by a magnitude six earthquake, 63 kilometres deep, centred 240 kilometres southeast of Honiara.
Significant numbers of displaced people were in evacuation centres across Honiara.
Yesterday morning, PM Key said New Zealand’s aid contribution would probably rise as authorities got to grips with the damage and assessed priorities.
“We’ve sent a Hercules, so has Australia, and we’ll be assessing what their needs [in the Solomons] actually are,” he said on Breakfast.
“I’ll be very surprised if we stay at NZD$300,000.
“If you look at Tonga for instance, we started with a relatively small number and moved up consistently over time.”
PM Key said the Solomon Islands Government would be likely to find the disaster response difficult to manage.
“It’s no slight on them, but I think they’ll struggle, because I think any government struggles to deal with a natural disaster with the order of magnitude that they’re facing,” he said.
“That’s one of the challenges – we don’t fully know yet where we can be of most assistance. But what we do know is that New Zealanders are great at lending their shoulder to the wheel.”
WELLINGTON, (FAIRFAX NZ)