Supplies running out in PNG regions cut off by quake

There’s been criticism from the Papua New Guinea opposition about the recovery effort in the wake of last week’s massive earthquake.

The magnitude 7.5 quake destroyed homes and infrastructure and caused dozens of landslides across the Highlands.

The death toll still isn’t known but authorities say it could go as high as 100.

Opposition leader Patrick Pruaitch was reported in PNG’s Post Courier newspaper as saying the government’s emergency response effort has been mainly all talk and little action.

The paper said, although Mr Pruaitch complimented the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill a few days ago for his fast response to the tragedy, he said the effort since then had been very disappointing.

He said thousands of people were struggling to obtain essential food and water supplies with the government making little or no effort to tackle this aspect of the crisis.

He said almost no air drops had been organised by the government in the face of a lack of capacity by the nation’s air force and private planes had not been commandeered for the purpose.

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Mr Pruaitch said water utility companies could have provided technical help in the four impacted provinces to repair damaged tanks and other infrastructure.

“To this point nothing of this sort has been done or contemplated.

“Getting adequate funds to immediately tackle the relief effort is a near impossibility because of the PNG Government’s soaring levels of debt and economic mismanagement which has made debt servicing a highly onerous task.

“Unless the Government fully engages the help of the private sector and volunteer organisations – a good start has been made by ExxonMobil and Oil Search in their operating areas – the relief effort will be totally inadequate. Even with an all-out effort, the overall challenge is daunting,” Mr Pruaitch said.

However, Peter O’Neill said foreign aid and private companies were helping to get relief supplies in.

“We are now in the process of delivering emergency supplies. Over the last few days we have been working closely with the Australian government, with Exxon, with Oil Search… in particular to make sure that immediate assistance that is required by communities in those affected areas.”

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Supplies running out in PNG regions cut off by quake

Meanwhile, Hela province’s governor said supplies are running critically low.

Hela province was cut off from the outside world by last Monday’s quake, which triggered massive landslides and flattened buildings.

A landslide cutting of the tambul mendi road following a 7.5 earthquake.

A landslide following the 7.5 quake Photo: Andrew Solomon

The governor, Philip Undialu, said landslides have closed the roads into the main town, Tari, and the airport runway has been damaged.

He said the province has gone a week without food or medicine being replenished.

“We have a serious issue with the road blockage. Landslips are preventing us from bringing fuel supplies, food and medicine from Lae and Mt Hagen down to Tari,” said Philip Undialu.

“If the road is not cleared at least within the next two or three days, then we’ll have a serious problem.”

Philip Undialu said crews were working on the main Highlands Highway and the airport runway, and he hoped a supply line would be restored by the middle of the week. /radionz