Disaster ResponseNatural Environment

MAF Papua New Guinea Earthquake response

3rd March 2018

MAF is continuing to respond with flights to affected areas in the aftermath of the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Papua New Guinea’s Hela Province on 26 February

More than 145 people are dead with more than 270,000 needing humanitarian assistance (source: The Guardian). In Fugwa, a village close to the epicentre, half the homes are gone. The school and health centre have sustained significant damage and the community are without access to clean water.


MAF has responded with medevacs including a flight on 1 March that carried four patients to Mount Hagen for treatment. The flight was carried out by pilot Steven Eatwell and was assisted by Nawi Mabo.

‘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’ said pilot Steven Eatwell.

Nagei Waruka, a 40-year-old expectant mother and her family were buried by a landslide shortly after the earthquake. She survived but tragically lost her entire family. She is pregnant and in a critical condition with injuries to her legs, back and arms. Men from the village carried her across a river and up to the airstrip where MAF was able to transport her to Mountt Hagen for treatment.

Other passengers included a man in his 20s with chest and abdominal pains after his house collapsed on Tuesday night following an aftershock. A woman in her 30s with a 3-year-old child suffered cuts and bruises after they were struck by a falling tree branch.

MAF provided medevac packs for the patients comprising of a few basic necessities including toiletries, some clothes and a towel for their stay in hospital. MAF Comms Officer Mandy Glass and her colleagues helped transport the walking wounded to hospital in Mount Hagen.

MAF Technologies PNG have been answering calls for assistance from remote communities via HF radio. Further medevacs are expected over the next few days as communications open up.

Food and clean water

Aid agencies including MAF are responding with co-ordinated efforts to meet the needs of the worst hit communities. With damage to the road network, it is anticipated that the distribution of aid will happen by air. Information provided by MAF is helping to identify communities who are yet to be contacted by HF radio in order to assess their needs. MAF is on standby to provide assistance.

According to the UN, over half a million people are thought to be living in earthquake affected areas. More than 160,000 have been categorised as extremely food insecure, after crops were destroyed. Some areas engaged in subsistence agriculture were already food insecure before the earthquake hit, due to drought.

There are concerns over the availability of clean water as many rivers are either blocked and stagnant or flowing with mud and silt.  Some drinking water sources have been contaminated by dead fish and crocodiles.