Second Major Quake Hampers Aid Workers in Papua New Guinea

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea – Prime Minister Peter O’Neill declared a state of emergency on 01 March after the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea were hit by a massive, 7.5 magnitude earthquake on 26 February. Aid workers from Australia, New Zealand, China, Israel, and other countries around the globe have been rushing to provide rescue and relief efforts.

Those efforts were hampered by when another 6.7 magnitude quake hit the island nation today, 6 March 2018.

Passage by roads to the affected areas has been complicated by heavily-damaged roads and mudslides. Many victims will have to be reached by air. A Red Cross assessment team was still attempting to reach the Nipa-Kutubu region when the second quake hit today.

Secretary-General of the Papua New Guinea Red Cross said that “This visit is crucial. Red Cross teams have been able to assess and support communities in other parts of the country, but access . . . has been impossible because lines of communication have been severed and roads damaged.”

A team of six emergency experts from the United Nations Office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been deployed to assist government, corporate, and NGO efforts.

Santos, a natural gas company based in Australia has donated $200,000 for food, clothing, and other essential supplies. The nation of Israel has sent 40 generators to provide immediate assistance to communities suffering from infrastructure damage.

The Chinese Business Community in PNG has collected and donated over $400,000 USD.

“The UN has initially mobilized $1.4 million to support relief efforts, having already dispatched immediate relief supplies to the earthquake affected areas such as tarpaulins, water containers, emergency medical items including, medical kits, vaccines, and malnutrition treatment supplies.”

Water and sanitation are the major concerns where relief crews have been unable to reach stranded communities. Numerous water towers have been destroyed and water sources have been contaminated.

Reports continue to mount from residents who need supplies and whose children are too frightened to sleep after experiencing the aftershocks and the second major quake. A United Church project officer told reporters, “Every little movement scares them.”

The official death toll is at 75 and is still rising. The United Church official said that the response center in Hela had already accounted for 67 deaths in that province alone. Another 11 have been reported dead when five houses in Timu were lost in a massive landslide.

PNG’s head of disaster response said that, as of yesterday, the government was still trying to assess the actual needs, so they could better inform relief agencies and donors.

ExxonMobil has ceased operations on the island. They are expected to remain closed for about eight weeks. In the meantime, the company is assisting with the relief efforts.


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