CANBERRA Feb 5 The Solomon Islands on Thursday declared a national disaster after torrential rain and flooding in the South Pacific nation killed eight people and left another 13 missing, destroying homes and bridges.
Minister of Home Affairs James Tora said 12 communities on the Solomons' main island of Guadalcanal had been assessed as disaster-hit and appealed for international assistance. Australia and France have already promised emergency aid.
Since December, flooding has also hit the Pacific island nations of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, with tens of thousands of islanders abandoning homes.
Heavy rain and flooding on Guadalcanal and nearby Savo Island has caused widespread damage and forced the evacuation of more than 70 villagers to the capital Honiara, officials said.
The Solomon Islands Red Cross had sent emergency staff and volunteers to distribute relief supplies to communities in West Guadalcanal and Longu, in the island's east, The Solomon Star newspaper said.
The Solomon Islands is a nation of about 500,000 mainly Melanesian people, spread across hundreds of islands, which gained independence from Britain in 1978.
Last month 11 Fijians died and more than 9,000 people were forced into evacuation centres after the worst floods in decades.
Sugar is Fiji's second major industry following tourism and sugar farms in the west have been devastated by the flooding, with damages estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars, industry officials say. (Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Bill Tarrant)