WRITTEN BY MIN TOBITT, INC SOUTH PACIFIC
Positioned on the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire” the people of Papua New Guinea are not strangers to earthquakes and tremors. Over the past year there have been 400 earthquakes ranging from 1.5 to 7.5. Over the past week the earth has been shaking in the West New Britain area up to 6.9 magnitude with warnings of tsunamis. But life generally moves on as the people adapt to each situation.
However, on February 25 this year a 7.6 magnitude earthquake near Tari in the Southern Highlands has had a disastrous effect on a large area. Huge landslides have changed the shape of the mountain ranges as they slid down into river valleys covering village homes, burying many people and polluting the water supply. During the following weeks there were a reported 59 aftershocks of over magnitude 5. This has created fear, displacement of an estimated 35,000 people, roads being damaged and unemployment with the closing down of Oil and Liquid Gas companies until they assess any damage to their facilities.
Food, water and medical supplies and water have been the priority with PNG, Australian and International Aid flowing in mostly by air transport. This has been made more difficult with limited communication and long standing deadly tribal fighting in some areas. On March 15, UNICEF estimated that 275,000 people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance including 125,000 children. Some disturbing reports are now emerging concerning the health and welfare of women and children who have had to flee their villages.
The INC South Pacific Office in Australia has had limited communication with the pastors in the region and is in a position of waiting to assess what is being done and what their most urgent needs might be. Some reports from Pastor Ben Solu in Mendi, which is 100 kilometres away from the epicentre, spoke of a number of people in that town being buried by landslides and damage to housing. The foundations on his own house are all cracked and every time there is another tremor they wonder if the house will fall down. He has been told that two COC/INC churches in the Kutubu area have collapsed.
Pastor Alex Koyaiye from Kaupena sent through the following photos of road damage in his area which is a long way from the epicentre so it demonstrates the savage force of the earthquake.
Any further reports will be added to this INC South Pacific blog site. In the meantime pray for them.