Disaster in PNG

December 12, 2008 at 10:38 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )


IRIN  12/12/08 
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Tens of thousands displaced by coastal flooding

Photo: OCHA
Northern coastal areas of Papua New Guinea have been hit by tidal waves causing flooding and the displacement of tens of thousands of people

BANGOK, 12 December 2008 (IRIN) – Tens of thousands of people along the northern coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG) have been displaced by flooding caused by abnormally high tides in recent days. Houses have been flooded and vegetable gardens destroyed.

According to the National Weather Service, the high sea level around the Bismarck and Solomon Seas is caused by an area of low pressure off Guam and New Caledonia. No change in the weather is expected over the next few days.

Provinces on PNG’s northern shoreline are most affected.

According to the Disaster Management Centre (DMC), those worst-hit are New Ireland, where, according, to the Provincial Administration, 20,000-30,000 people have been affected; and East Sepik Province, particularly in the area around Wewak town, where 500-600 people are homeless, and one child died, according to Save the Children.

Tidal surges were continuing to wreak havoc in the area, according to provincial officials, destroying a wharf at Markham Point, portions of a hotel and two lodges, and putting shops and government installations at risk.

Over 50,000 affected

Rapid assessments are being carried out by Provincial Disaster Centres and NGOs. The PNG government estimates 50,000-80,000 people have been affected. However, the assessment process is proceeding slowly owing to the remoteness of many areas, some of which lack roads, and have limited resources and personnel. No state of emergency has been declared, but The National Disaster Centre (NDC) has declared the situation a national disaster.

“The biggest gap at this point is real knowledge from the ground. We know lots of people are displaced but with the tidal surge still continuing and remote locations, it is difficult to undertake thorough assessments,” UN resident coordinator in the PNG Jacqui Badcock told IRIN.

On 11 December the National Executive Committee (NEC) approved PGK50 million (US$20 million) for relief assistance: “In today’s (11 December) emergency meeting, the NEC has approved up to K50 million, but immediately released to the NDES [National Disaster Emergency Services] K20 million to provide relief assistance to people in affected areas,” Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare said.

NDC chairman Manasupe Zurenuoc on 12 December appealed to donors for relief supplies, including tarpaulins, water containers, potable water, blankets, basic building tools and materials, and medicine. He also made a request for a UN Disaster and Coordination (UNDAC) team.

Aid efforts

The PNG Red Cross Society is currently conducting assessments and distributing relief in New Ireland Province and will extend its response to Sandaun Province and other affected provinces that have a Red Cross presence. Save the Children and Oxfam are already providing assistance in the Wewak area of East Sepik Province. Caritas is providing relief assistance in Manus and New Ireland provinces as well.

The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) has committed to provide 500,000 Australian dollars through various international NGO partners, and the Australian government will dispatch a C-130 military plane with tarpaulins, water containers and purification tablets to New Ireland and Manus provinces. The New Zealand Agency for International Development, the Japanese embassy and the Japan International Cooperation Agency also pledged financial assistance.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is deploying additional staff: “We stand ready to add further support if requested and remain in close contact with the PNG National Disaster Centre and the UN resident coordinator in PNG,” said Terje Skadval, head of OCHA’s regional office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok.




UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

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