Disaster minister Joseph briefs PNG on quake and crises hitting nation

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East Sepik's double disaster
East Sepik's double disaster . . . first came the heavy floods and then the earthquake - "doubling the pain for the Sepik and wetlands people". Image: PNG Post-Courier screenshot APR

By Miriam Zarriga in Port Moresby

Papua New Guinea’s Defence Minister and minister responsible for the National Disaster Centre Dr Billy Joseph confirmed today that the government — with coordinated support from all stakeholder agencies and development partners — was responding appropriately to the natural disasters that has hit many parts of the country.

The National Disaster Center (NDC) is the national coordinating agency and is working with provincial governments and district development authorities (DDAs) as well as the Department of Works and Highways, PNG Defence Force and other stakeholders to coordinate and respond promptly.

The East Sepik provincial earthquake on Sunday left at least three dead and more than 1000 homes collapsed.

The US Geological Survey said it was magnitude 6.9 and just over 40 km deep.

 Dr Billy Joseph
PNG’s Disaster Minister Dr Billy Joseph . . . “seven people are still missing [off the coast of New Ireland] and our search is still active.” Image: PNG Post-Courier
A summary of the current crises impacting on Papua New Guinea.

King tides and heavy flooding
The minister confirmed that about 10 provinces are getting the necessary assistance from the National Disaster Center, including Goroka/EHP which was not included in the initial report provided to his office.

PNG Defence Force troops are working closely with the Simbu Provincial Government and Gumine DDA and their respective leaderships as Simbu was one of the worst affected provinces.

7 people missing off the coast of New Ireland Province
Nine people boarded a banana boat at Kavieng for Emirau Island but did not make it due to heavy weather conditions when the boat capsized.

Two of the young men swam to the island to look for help while seven others made a makeshift raft and floated awaiting assistance.

“As of today, seven people are still missing and our search is still active — if we don’t find them after 72 hours, we will declare them lost and the search will be discontinued,” Minister Joseph said.

The Australian Defence Force has provided a C27 aircraft to conduct low aerial surveillance of the subject areas.

A PNGDF Navy Patrol Boat has also been deployed to the area but no sightings have been reported.

The Search and Rescue operations are being coordinated by the National Maritime Safety Authority with oversight provided by the PNG Defence Force.

East Sepik Province earthquake
NDC is working very closely with the leaders of East Sepik, including the provincial government, to ensure much needed help reach the people that need it.

An emergency allocation of K200,000 (about NZ$90,000) has been made available for food, water, shelter and medicines etc as seen appropriate by the Provincial Disaster Committee.

It is at their disposal. A commercial helicopter is now in Wewak to assist in the relief operations and the PNDF military helicopter will join shortly.

“We are also mobilising support from our bilateral partners to assist but the challenge is now for the Provincial Disaster Center to provide reports to NDC so we define and coordinate what kind of emergency assistance is required,” Minister Joseph said.

Minister Joseph further warned Papua New Guineans to take precautions and not take risks, especially at sea, as the country’s emergency services are stretched and rescue efforts may not happen in time.

Miriam Zarriga is a PNG Post-Courier reporter. Republished with permission.

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