Broken transport links still hampering quake relief in PNG

2:47 pm on 14 March 2018

Delivery of emergency relief supplies in Papua New Guinea's earthquake-hit Highlands region is still being hampered by disrupted transport links.

Delays in getting relief to quake affected PNG highlands: RNZ Checkpoint

There have been delays in getting relief to quake affected PNG highlands Photo: RNZ / YouTube

The region was hit by a 7.5-magnitude quake two weeks ago which killed more than 110 people, with some villages buried by massive landslides.

Both disaster assessment and distribution of relief supplies have been held up due to landslides blocking roads, and damage to airstrips.

Using Hercules aircraft and Chinook helicopters, Australia's Defence Force, in conjunction with New Zealand, has been leading the delivery of relief.

They are flying badly needed supplies from the capital Port Moresby to Moro airfield in Southern Highlands, and from there shuttling the relief out into the affected region.

Oil and gas companies who operate in the region, including ExxonMobil and Oil search, have also been assisting, with funds and use of their choppers.

But there are many affected communities in remote, cut-off parts where help has not yet reached. This is why officials say the death toll, which is over 110, is expected to rise as response teams gradually reach them.

Barclay Tenza has been part of disaster co-ordination efforts in Southern Highlands province where he said officials had been delivering water and medicine supplies whereever they can in the past two weeks

"We are waiting for Australian and New Zealand balus (plane) to come and do supplies, because our roads are closed. At the provincial headquarters, the airfield is not okay here, so we are chopping down diwai (trees) to allow for the Hercules to land.

"We've got supplies from what we can find in the province, and that has gone extinct due to shortage of supply."

Transport links are understood to be even worse afected by the quake in neighbouring Hela province.

Isaac Pulupe, who lives in Hela province's capital Tari, said aid was slowly trickling in, but it was not enough for the tens-of-thousands affected.

Tari had been largely cut off by the quake but according to Mr Pulupe access had been restored to Tari from the Southern highlands capital Mendi in the past few days. However only small vehicles were able to get through.

"Goods that can come en masse from outside the province is not coming in because the main highway linking from Hela Province out towards Southern Highlands is not that quick [to fully reopen], hence we are not receiving goods in very large quantities.

"But we are receiving on light vehicles. Local businessmen are trying to transport goods from light vehicles into the province."

Isaac Pulupe said most of the town was still living in tents, there were food shortages, and authorities hadn't even started trying to restore power yet.

The New Zealand Defence Force has delivered 18 tonnes of aid and deployed 37 personnel to PNG on two Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft, as part of the New Zealand government's assistance to PNG following the earthquake.

An RNZAF C-130 Hercules is still in Port Moresby. So far, it has airlifted 60 tonnes of food, water and medical supplies from Port Moresby to Moro and Mount Hagen in the quake-damaged Highlands region.