In an age of intensifying globalisation, communications advances and scientific discovery, along comes an unfolding tragedy that reminds us just what a vast and lonely place the world can be. No word has been heard from the Solomon Islands of Tikopia and Anuta since the onset of a massive cyclone on Sunday. At the best of times, the islands' 3,000 people can only connect with the outside world through radio. There are no airfields. The Solomons' capital, Honiara, is five days away by boat, a distance of more than 1,000km. Australian air force planes are heading to the scene, their crews fearing the worst given the fragile nature of the islands' infrastructure and environment. A tribal Melanesian existence that has lasted for centuries might be lost forever. As far away as it all might seem, the Solomons group is part of the Asia-Pacific region. As such, the crisis is a reminder that much of the Pacific has dropped off the geo-strategic radar screens in recent years as the world focuses ever more closely on centres of economic growth and of population - and market - expansion. On issues such as rising sea levels, overfishing and international aid and development, the area struggles for the international attention it deserves. Australia and New Zealand have traditionally provided a voice for islanders but those countries, too, have priorities elsewhere these days. If there is a new humanitarian crisis to be dealt with, the wider region must pull together to help. It must also look at ways of reaching out to isolated neighbours as progress and development march on.