PNG declares state of emergency in wake of quake devastation


Communities struck by the 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Papua New Guinea’s Hela province remain confused as aftershocks continue. Despite the arrival of National Disaster Officers in Tari yesterday, many remain traumatised. Video: EMTV News

By Gorethy Kenneth in Port Moresby

The Papua New Guinea government has declared an immediate state-of-emergency for the earthquake-devastated provinces of Hela, Southern Highlands, Western and Enga provinces.

Cabinet met yesterday and also set aside K450 million for relief and service restoration operations.

Prime Minister O’Neill also announced yesterday that cabinet had approved the establishment of a restoration authority that would manage long-term reconstruction efforts during a four-year period to fully restore normalcy.

O’Neill said that an emergency session of Parliament would be called soon to approve the legislation setting up the restoration authority.

He said K100 million would be released immediately and the remaining K300 million spread over a long term arrangement.

A committee assisted by the Works Department under an emergency disaster restoration team, led by Dr William Hamlin, as the emergency controller would be announced today.

Dr Hamlin and team would manage and co-ordinate all restoration activities working with provincial authorities.

Unprecedented disaster
O’Neill said that this was an unprecedented disaster in the Highlands region with an appropriate response underway by the National Government.

He said while all these decisions were being made, relief efforts were already underway, and further assessments provided to focus operations to areas in need.

“A state-of-emergency has been declared to expedite the restoration of essential public services including healthcare services, schools, road access, airports, power and communications facilities,” O’Neill said.

“An emergency session of Parliament will be convened for the presentation of legislation that will establish the restoration authority, with the date of the session to be announced by the Speaker of Parliament.

“Members of the PNG Defence Force and disaster officers were dispatched to the affected areas immediately following the earthquake, and are working with provincial authorities, particularly with the governors of Hela and Southern Highlands provinces.

“Essential government departments are already delivering relief, and we are further working with partners in the international community to utilise specialist relief capabilities to reach our people and communities affected by the earthquake.”

Gorethy Kenneth is a senior PNG Post-Courier journalist.

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