Solomon Islands unrest: three bodies found in burnt-out building

The badly burnt victims were discovered in a building in Chinatown in Honiara after days of rioting

The bodies of three people have been discovered in a burnt-out building in the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara, the first reported deaths after days of rioting.

The charred bodies were discovered in a store in the Chinatown district of Honiara, police said on Saturday.

A security guard, Edie Soa, said the bodies had been found in the OK Mart in Honiara’s Chinatown on Friday night.

“Three of them were in the same room with a cash box and money on the floor,” he said.

Many buildings in the Chinatown district have been torched and Soa said the bodies were very badly burnt.

“We couldn’t tell if they are Chinese people or locals.”

Police said forensic teams had launched an investigation and were still on the scene but that the cause of the deaths was unclear.

People walk through the Chinatown district of Honiara after days of violence.
People walk through the Chinatown district of Honiara after days of violence. Photograph: Charley Piringi/AFP/Getty Images

The streets of the capital remained relatively quiet on Saturday morning as locals begin to assess the damage left by days of rioting. More than 100 people have been arrested.

A curfew had been imposed on the restive capital overnight after a third day of violence that saw the prime minister’s home come under attack and swathes of the city reduced to smouldering ruins.

Australian peacekeepers, who arrived in the country late on Thursday, also joined police on the streets to restore order and protect critical infrastructure.

The explosion of violence is partly a result of frustrations with prime minister Manasseh Sogavare’s government and chronic unemployment – made worse by the pandemic.

Experts say the crisis has also been fuelled by long-standing animosity between residents of the most populous island Malaita and the central government based on the island of Guadalcanal.

The archipelago nation of around 700,000 people has for decades endured ethnic and political tensions.

Malaita residents have long complained that their island is neglected by the central government, and divisions intensified when Sogavare recognised Beijing in 2019.

Charley Piringi and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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