This morning, Monday 26th February, the southern highlands of PNG experienced a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. There have been reports of more than 20 aftershocks in the past 24 hours.
MAF Internal Communications Manager Stephanie Gidney says 'all of our staff are safe, although MAF property has incurred some damage'.
In Mount Hagen where the majority of MAF’s aircraft are based, staff experienced major shaking and some broken dishes, although there is no major damage.Staff have been experiencing power outages in their homes after the earthquake caused a landslide affecting Paunda hydro plant in Enga.
Communicating from MAF’s remote base in Telefomin, Operations Manager Siobhain Dales says, ‘We had three big earthquakes last night which were very scary, hearing everything falling out of cupboards. The closest one to us was 7.6 on the Richter Scale and the epicentre was only about 40 miles away.
‘The quakes resulted in damage to many water tanks in several bases. Here in Telefomin, three houses sprung leaks in our metal tanks and one house had its header tank almost fall off the roof.’
Today, we had two aircraft in the general area of the epicentre of the earthquake in PNG. Our pilots asked communities if MAF could provide any assistance following the earthquake, but the people did not indicate there was any need.
Dodomona is the only community that has made contact with us with a particular concern. MAF believes there to have been 14 deaths at Dodomona. The community says they have shelter and food is still available.
Mougulu has also suffered landslides and people have been advised to stay away from steep areas, but they are not asking for assistance at this time.
As of 11am local time, MAF has not received any flight requests in response to injury or damage as a result of the earthquake, nor requests for rescues. We are however monitoring the situation closely.
Cellular communications are patchy, and the power is out, but the MAF Technology Services HF radio network and managed frequencies are enabling communications with the affected region.
The MAF Disaster Response team is currently on standby in case the programme needs additional logistics or communications support.