Aid is desperately needed for people scared to return to homes
Emergency aid supplies are being stepped up to thousands of people stranded after a devastating tsunami struck parts of the Solomon Islands.

Officials said 900 homes were destroyed and 5,000 people affected. Tuesday would be a "telling day" on whether the death toll of 20 would rise, they said.

A state of emergency was declared after the 8-magnitude quake struck on Monday.

Whole villages are said to have been wiped out around the main town of Gizo in the western Solomons.

Huge waves, some 10 metres (30 feet) high, were reported and a tsunami alert was raised around the Pacific.

'Double quakes'

Solomons deputy police commissioner Peter Marshall said: "I expect there will be further deaths to report as they day progresses unfortunately. Today will be a telling day."

Mr Marshall said most of the victims in the official death toll of 12 were in Gizo, a small fishing town and diving centre only 45km (25 miles) from the epicentre.

Unconfirmed reports suggest widespread damage in other islands.

Disaster Management Office spokesman Julian Makaa said on Tuesday 900 homes had been destroyed and 5,000 people affected.

Solomons National Disaster Council chairman Fred Fakari said: "We understand that a lot of villages in other areas of Western Province and Choiseul Province were totally wiped out."

At least four flights are assessing damage and at least three sea shipments will bring aid to Gizo.

Helicopters on Monday made the first drops of tents and water to about 4,000 people who spent the night in the open in the hills, unwilling to return to their homes for fear of aftershocks.

Australian quake expert Kevin McCue said the region had a history of double quakes and authorities should be on alert for another of up to magnitude 7.5.

Western Province Premier Alex Lokopio said people were in desperate need of more water, food and tents.

The Red Cross said the tsunami had left 2,000 homeless in Gizo and that reports suggested similar or worse damage elsewhere.

The UN says it has offered assistance to the government and Australia has pledged $1.6m in emergency aid.

PM's address

The undersea quake struck at 0740 local time on Monday (2040 GMT Sunday).

Beaches on Australia's east coast closed and people fled, fearing a repeat of the Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December 2004 that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

The alert was called off several hours later as it became clear the devastation was concentrated in the area around the Solomon Islands.

On Gizo, primary school teacher Arnold Pidakere told the BBC News website: "We ran for our lives, away from the waves. When we looked back, we saw our house being destroyed.

"There are buildings on the hills that were damaged by the earthquake."

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said in an address to the nation on Monday evening: "My heart goes out to all of you in this very trying time."

The Solomon Islands has a population of about 500,000 people - many of them living on remote and widely scattered islands.

Many people live in houses made of palm and bamboo on the islands' beaches.