Dominicans Devastated As Tsunami Hits Solomon
the Apostle Catherdral
in Gizo is damaged after a powerful earthquake and tsunami
struck the Solomon Island's second biggest town.
SOLOMON ISLANDS April 8, 2007 -- At 6.40 am on Monday, April 2,
an earthquake measuring 8.1 hit the western Solomon Islands. The
resulting tsunami hit the far west of the Solomons. Dominican
friars and sisters serve in many areas of the Solomons,
particularly in Gizo and Loga – a
tiny island a few minutes east of Gizo. They have lost most
of their possessions.
CNN reports 34 people dead. The Red Cross said
about 2,000 of Gizo's 7,000 people are homeless. No injuries were
reported among the Dominicans; although damage is severe and
sources report that the Dominicans there are now homeless,
although the friars’ house may
The sisters on Loga were at breakfast when
they felt the earthquake and the sea retreated. Recognizing a
coming ttidal wave, they escaped up the hill. The Loga house and
novitiate were flooded - 'Everything is floating' reported one
sister. Loga is where the formation programs of both the friars
and the sisters is situated. There are five postulants, a novice
and five friars in formation.
In Gizo, the lower story of the Bishop's
house was flooded and the church is damaged as well - from the quake
and the water. The hospital was evacuated.
“The immediate need is for food, water and medical supplies
as all are in short supply,’ said
Jamie Isbister, head of programs with Caritas Australia. AP sources
reported severe shortages of water and food as well as slow relief
efforts. An international relief operation for Solomon Islands tsunami
survivors picked up its pace Friday, as reports of dysentery added
urgency to the effort.
In the diocese of Gizo, there are four main islands all of which
have parishes. On the island of Nila, there is
a parish church and the sisters had a girls’ school and a
small maternity hospital there. The church is still standing but
the school and clinic have been destroyed.
“We can only be grateful that no Dominican seems to have died, although
a number of Catholic parishioners have lost their lives, and many are homeless,” reported
Nick Punch, OP, friar and former provincial.
There are two parishes on Choiseul Island. Moli is on the south
coast and Sirovanga is on the north coast along with a number
of churches in various villages. Punch reports that the church
at Moli, together with its catechetical center have been destroyed.
Bishop Bernard O’Grady of the Gizo diocese is also homeless
and the cathedral and all the offices have been destroyed, according
to fr. Punch. Other reports indicate that in the aftermath, students
from the school have been combing the area to be of assistance
and the Chinese Community
in Gizo have been freely feeding the people from what
they have in their stores.
Some electricity is present, along with phone lines. Water is scarce
and difficult to deliver. Assessments are still being made of the
damage. As of Wednesday, Gizo's airport remained closed, and helicopters
or a boat journey of several hours were the only ways to get emergency
supplies to the town.
The mission of the sisters in the Solomons belongs to the Australian
Dominican Sisters. This group is called the Dominican Sisters of
Eastern Australia and the Solomon Islands. The Prioress General
is Sr. Rosemary Lewins firstname.lastname@example.org.
The mission of the friars is a vicariate of the Province of the Assumption, serving
in Australia, New Zealand, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Fr Tom Cassidy
is the prior of Assumption Province.
A special Dominican Relief Fund has been established for those who can offer
assistance. Use the link here to the International Justice and Peace website
Please continue to hold our Family in your prayers.