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Tsunami Strikes a Marist School

06/04/2007: Solomon Islands

At 07.40 (local time) on the morning of Monday April 2nd, a severe earthquake occurred in the Solomon Islands. At a strength of about 8 on the Richter scale, it was centred 45 kilometres from the Island of Gizo in the north of the Solomon Islands.

About 25 kilometres across the water, north-east from Gizo, at Vanga Point on Kolombangara Island is located a Marist school community. [See Photo]. It consists of St.Dominic’s Rural Training School, Vanga Teachers College, and the St. Marcellin Primary School, opened only in 2006. It is a community of about 260 people, students, teachers and their families, a part of the Marist District of Melanesia.



The tsunami that resulted from the earthquake caused the sea to rise about four metres. Fortunately, there was no loss of life at our school. The school’s supply boat fortunately was at sea at the time, and escaped destruction. The school’s wharf has been destroyed, as well as some damage to buildings. There have been subsequent earth tremors, some as big as 6.7. In addition to causing further damage to already weakened buildings, they are causing much anxiety for the people.

The situation of our school was fortunate in that much of the school is built on high ground back from the sea shore. Many villages in the region are not so fortunate. When a village is located on a small tropical atoll which is barely above sea level, there is no high ground to which to escape. Latest reports have the death toll at 22 people, with over 5,000 made homeless. Because communications to, and within the region, are poor, it is expected that the loss of life will increase much higher. For a country with limited resources, the tsunami is indeed a disaster.

The General Administration, acting through BIS, is in contact with the Brothers at Vanga Point to see what assistance will be required.

In this Holy Week, as we journey with the Suffering Jesus, in solidarity we journey also with the suffering people of the Solomon Islands.

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