At the heart of the Goilala landslide disaster – prayers for the buried 15

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Saki disaster
On the ground at the site of the Saki alluvial mining landslide disaster. Image: Central Govt

SPECIAL REPORT: By Central Governor Robert Agorobe at Saki, Papua New Guinea

It was with a heavy heart when we flew into the landslide disaster zone in Saki, Goilala, on New Year’s Eve.

The weather was terrible with heavy rain and clouds right down to the tree tops.

The Bell 212 flown by Captain Sam Onno, fully loaded with rescue equipment and food crept in through to the landing pad only a few metres in diameter and cut out of the side of a hill at a elevation of around 1300m above sea level.

I looked ahead of me and saw a group of my people – even children – braving the rain to see what this great machine was about to deliver to this beautiful, but yet very harsh, area that had just claimed 15 lives only a few days ago.

This was no village in Goilala but an alluvial gold mining camp that brought people from all over district with the prospect of making it rich from mining gold in a very traditional way.

The day started early with Provincial Administrator Francis Koaba and his team procuring the final additional tools that we needed up at the disaster area to assist and speed up the excavation of those who had died on December 28.

We picked up additional water pumps, hoses, generators, coffins, body bags and food for the trip.

When we landed, the Minister and Member for Goilala, William Samb, was on the ground.

Grieving families
He had spent two nights with the grieving families while I organised the rest with our provincial team.

Out of the 15 suspected victims, three were discovered yesterday. Five more were found today including a mother still hugging her baby as if they were in deep sleep.

Our plans for the New Year is to start repatriation of the deceased as the bodies are starting to decay.

If all goes well, we should have all the bodies that have been found repatriated to their homes and families for a proper funeral.

On behalf of the Central provincial government, I want to thank the Minister and Member for Goilala, William Samb, and his DDA team, our PA Francis Koaba and our Provincial Disaster team, Central police, Captain Sam Onno and the Helifix team for dropping every thing and giving priority to assist with this disaster.

Our search is continuing and we pray that those that perished and are still missing be found soon and return to their loved ones.

Central Governor Robert Agorobe posted this brief report on Facebook on New Year’s Eve and it was republished by PNG journalist Scott Waide’s My Land, My Country blog and in return published by Asia Pacific Report with permission.

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