Earthquakes in Papua New Guinea 

MAF has been working closely with our partners to respond to needs in remote communities in the wake of the 7.6 earthquakes that struck Papua New Guinea on the 26th of February 2018. 

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With sixty-five years of operational flying in PNG, MAF is well placed to assist our partners and the earthquake affected communities they serve.

MAF programme and disaster response staff have assisted a number of organisations working together to gather information, conduct needs assessments, and distribute relief goods to remote areas.

Surveys

The initial MAF survey flight, conducted soon after the earthquake, was an invaluable tool for our partners.

Organisations including the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) were able to use the geolocated photos for their program planning. A Mt Hagen stationed representative of ADF commented: ‘The 200 photos from the early MAF survey flight definitely shaped our understanding of the disaster, more than any other sources we had.’

The aerial survey has been followed up by in-depth assessments carried out by our partners on the ground.

Thirty people are thought to have died, with more than 200 homes destroyed in the worst affected areas. In Fugwa, a village close to the epicenter, half the homes are gone. The school and health center have sustained significant damage and the community are without access to clean water at this time.

There are about three thousand five hundred people living at six newly forming care centers after they had to leave their homes.

At least twenty thousand people in the affected area now live in unstable and dangerous housing.

With water supplies damaged in some cases, people have no choice but to drink polluted water.

Sharing their Sorrow

Our PNG Based Caravan pilot Steven Eatwell was a huge blessing and encouragement to the earthquake-stricken people at Huya and Bosavi. On board with Steven was Nawi Mabo, our Ground Ops Training Coordinator.

“Today, I had the chance to see first-hand the devastation caused by the recent earthquake” reported Mabo, “while returning to Hagen from Kiunga and stopping at Huya and Bosavi to pick up people who were injured from the earthquake. Among them was a woman who was the sole survivor of a group of about thirteen people that were buried by a landslide while trying to get to Komo.
“Another woman we also picked up was injured from falling rocks and branches caused by an aftershock a day after the major earthquake. She had wounds on her head and other parts of the body. Her little boy was also picked up. He had one eye injured as a result of being hit by debris falling from the hillside.

There were a number of people who sustained injuries from running into objects while attempting to exit houses and huts in the dark during the major tremor. The health worker at Bosavi said there were no medicines to treat people and expressed sadness of doing nothing much during this critical time.

“The appreciation to MAF for being there at this critical time of need” stated Nawi, “was overwhelming especially at Huya where we dropped 240 kilograms of food supplies courtesy of Sally Lloyd”.

Nawi went on to say, “Some people shed tears, I joined them! I have worked twelve years with MAF but have not seen this level of gratitude by people who express thankfulness when help came at their greatest hour of need.

“As we prepared to leave the people, Steve Eatwell asked me to pray with the people. I did, encouraging them we (MAF) will splash the stories and pictures of the devastation the earthquake caused, and work to get help to come their way. We encouraged them that people everywhere were praying for them, and other areas affected by the earthquake. The community leader on behalf of his people thanked MAF for being there all this time, more so at this time, when the need for help is even greater.”

Steven continued: “Thanks to Nawi for his help today. In the morning, before we left Kiunga we were both phoning different people and contacting people at Huya to assess the airstrip condition, as a previous survey flight thought there could be possible cracks on the airstrip. I did a few inspection runs across and down the strip, and we decided it was safe to land.The cracks we noticed were on the sides, way off centreline, which confirmed reports from our MAF agent at Huya.

As Nawi said, the people were so grateful for the plane to have come, not only for the patients and the unexpected food supplies, but I felt that they also wanted to share their sorrow and their stories with anyone who could possibly help them.

This is love

“The women sitting close by the boxes of food could not keep back and after a short while crawled up the bank and hugged the boxes. It was great to be able to be there and not rush but listen to the people and pray with them. I felt that the few boxes we took were received gratefully but were not much compared to the many people there.

“When the Caravan arrived at Mt Hagen shortly before lunchtime, the Hagen base staff all assisted helping the patients out of the aircraft to wait at the base for the ambulance to arrive. We gave the patients medevac bags.”

Steven has also visited other airstrips like Suabi, Yehebi, Fuma, and others. “People have told me about dead fish and one crocodile floating downstream. I saw this for myself at Yehebi and the people informed me that there was a film on the river similar to how oil sits on the water. They are not sure if there are still fish in the river as it is too dirty - with debris and mud.”

Sally Lloyd, who grew up as a missionary kid in the area, was devastated for her friends in the earthquake-stricken villages and was touched to receive the news and some pictures of MAF’s medevac. She commented: “AND THIS IS LOVE. MAF is saving lives in PNG following the earthquake.”

MAF will continue to work in delivering aid, praying and serving the people of PNG. Thank you to all MAF supporters for sharing in the sorrow of Papua New Guineans, and for extending your help in their greatest time of need.

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