8.0 earthquake hits Pacific: Four believed dead after tsunami hits Solomon Islands

SYDNEY - At least four people are missing and presumed dead after a powerful earthquake off the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific generated a tsunami up to five feet tall.

It damaged dozens of homes in the island chain.

One of the people presumed dead was fishing in a dugout canoe when the first wave hit, sweeping him out to sea. A woman was believed to have drowned when the water rushed into her village.

Officials say four villages in the island of Santa Cruz were hit by the waves, with two of them suffering severe damage. A spokesman for the prime minister says between 70 and 80 homes and other properties were damaged there.

Many of the villagers had fled to higher ground as a precaution before the tsunami hit.

The quake -- with a magnitude 8.0 -- has been followed by dozens of aftershocks.

Disaster officials have been struggling to reach the remote area. The tsunami flooded the airstrip at the nearest airport, leaving it littered with debris.

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