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Aftershock hampers tsunami relief

| Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 9:08 p.m.

SYDNEY — A strong aftershock rattled the Solomon Islands on Friday, hampering relief efforts to tsunami-ravaged villages and forcing the South Pacific nation's prime minister to forgo a visit to the stricken area where nine deaths have been confirmed.

Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo was on a plane to Santa Cruz Island in the eastern Solomons to assess damage when the aftershock hit, said Silas Lilo, a spokesman for his office. The plane was forced to return to the capital Honiara.

Also aboard the 32-seater plane — the first to attempt to reach the island since the disaster — were shelter kits, water carriers, medical supplies and medical staff, said Andrew Catford, the Solomons country director for relief agency World Vision. The plane will try again to land on the island Friday afternoon, he said.

The 6.6-magnitude aftershock damaged roads in the island's main town of Lata and prevented aid workers already stationed there from reaching people on the coast, Catford said.

The aftershock, the most significant since the 8.0 earthquake that sparked Wednesday's tsunami, didn't produce any tsunami warnings.

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