WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Wreckage from a World War II torpedo boat was tossed up from the sea in the Solomon Islands after a powerful 8.1 earthquake hit the area in early April, an official said Friday.

Jay Waura of the National Disaster Management Office said the explosive-laden boat was exposed when reefs were pushed up three meters (10 feet) above sea level by the April 2 quake, which caused a devastating tsunami in the western Solomon Islands that killed 52 people.

The Solomons' coastline is still littered with decaying military wrecks from World War II, including the torpedo patrol boat commanded by U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

"My team members believe that this boat could have been one of those U.S. torpedo boats such as the famous PT-109, which the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy had served aboard during the war," Waura said.

Kennedy's boat was sunk by a Japanese destroyer in the Blackett Strait in August 1943 off Gizo, the main town of western Solomon Islands. The Solomons' main island, Guadalcanal, was the scene of fierce World War II fighting.

Waura said people on Rannonga island showed his team the wreckage sitting on dry ground.

"We were amazed by this finding, as previously this wreckage had long been sitting under the sea and rusting in peace without anyone knowing about it," New Zealand Press Association quoted Waura as saying.

Only the boat's hull with its deadly cargo of explosives remained intact, he said.

Waura said a Solomon Islands Police Force bomb disposal unit would be sent to the island to safely detonate the explosives.

Kennedy was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy serving in the Pacific when his PT-109 was cut in two by the Japanese destroyer. Two crew were killed, but Kennedy and the vessel's other survivors clung to the wreckage before swimming to a nearby island. The experience earned Kennedy the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.

Wreckage from PT-109 was found in 2002 by shipwreck hunter Robert Ballard, who also found the Titanic as well as other notable sunken ships.