PNG quake-hit communities plead for relief aid to ‘bypass’ government


As relief supplies continue to be delivered to earthquake affected communities, there is another looming disaster over water, reports EMTV News.

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

People in earthquake-affected areas of Papua New Guinea’s Highlands have asked international agencies to bypass the national government when providing relief.

The PNG Government has admitted that its response to the earthquake has been slow, hampered by damage to roads and access to funding.

In Koroba in Hela Province, local leader Stanley Hogga Piawi told the ABC’s PNG correspondent Eric Tlozek that more than two weeks after the 7.5 magnitude quake, people were still waiting for help.

LISTEN: Angry Highlanders call on relief agencies to sidestep PNG government

Continuous rain is hampering relief efforts in the earthquake-devastated regions of the Highlands, reports the PNG Post-Courier.

The wet may continue for a few more days as helicopters, the mainstay of the relief efforts, are now limited in the operation.

The National Weather Service (NWS) office has warned of a “high risk” of landslides, flooding and a slight chance of a tropical cyclone. The wet season has finally extended into the Southern and Highlands regions, the NWS said yesterday.

As Papua New Guinea experiences the wet season and unusual natural disasters, the NWS forecasting and warning centre assistant director Jimmy Gomoga is now urging people to listen to the radio stations for weather warnings updates.

Aircraft use restricted
The Australian and New Zealand defence forces said yesterday they had limited the use of their lighter aircraft due to bad weather.

The NWS said the wet season normally set in about December until late May when the dry season begins.

“According to the latest analysis from the weather office, we are in a weak La Nina phase and will mean higher rainfalls across the mainland PNG and mostly over the Southern region with high risk of flooding in the Momase, Highlands and Southern regions, high risk of landslides in the Highlands and deforested areas and 30 to 40 per cent chance of a tropical cyclone forming or passing within PNG,” Gomoga said.

He said the wet season triggered tropical cyclones so people living along coastal waters, particularly along the Solomon Sea and Coral Sea, must listen to weather warnings on the radio and take precautions.

“This weather we are experiencing will continue for the next 24 hours and may continue as the country is still in the wet season,” Gomoga said.

“The peak period has already passed and the month of April and May are the transitional periods and eventually into dry season which kicks into in the month of June.”

In the meantime, the weather office is closely monitoring the ocean currents in possibility of a tropical cyclone.

Water shortage ‘looming disaster’
While relief supplies continue to be delivered to earthquake-affected communities, a lack of water is proving to be a looming disaster, reports EMTV News.

In a briefing, Oil Search Limited managing director Peter Botten said the lack of access to clean water sources for many communities had increased the risk of sickness.

The company is now working with its partners, including state agencies, in an effort to deliver clean water to communities, to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases.

Among its relief efforts, Oil Search has deployed a dedicated medical team to reach affected communities – these teams have already noted an increase in water-borne diseases, with several medical evacuations already carried out.

Australian doctors to help
Australian Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has announced Australian doctors would come to Papua New Guinea to help medical teams in earthquake-affected areas, as fear of water-borne diseases emerge, reports The National and as also reported earlier by Asia Pacific Report.

“We know that over the next few days or weeks, most of the water-borne diseases will start affecting some of the population in the area. We have to lift our presence in medical support that we will have to extend to them,” O’Neill said.

“Dr Temu [Health Minister Sir Puka] has already cleared for the Australian doctors to come and help us…They will come and help our own medical specialists which the Health Department is putting together to dispatch to the remotest communities throughout the country.”

Sir Puka said they were mobilising a team from the Port Moresby General Hospital.
“We have formally requested the Australian government [to send doctors] because Australian doctors in emergency situations are well organised,” Sir Puka said.

“So we have asked them for assistance which will complement what we have.”

O’Neill said relief efforts were ongoing, reports The National.

Remote communities
“We are starting to reach many of the remote communities, supplying medicine, food and relief supply to the provinces affected,” he said, adding that the district development authorities in areas being allocated funding were assisting the people “which we are not able to reach”.

“Most of the members of Parliament and the district chief executive officers have been trying to mobilise the supplies and in particular medicine, and getting the injured and the sick out of the areas that have been affected,” he said.

He added that commitments, towards the government’s relief efforts so far had exceeded K100 million.

It included donations from governments – “private sector donations coming through is well over K5 million.”

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