Update: Earthquake Response in Papua New Guinea

Published: 1 Mar 2018

On Tuesday, 27 February, MAF PNG conducted a 3 hour aerial survey of the regions affected by the recent strong earthquakes in PNG’s highlands region. The survey identified many new landslides, several of them impacting roadways.

Photo credit: MAF International

The survey flight over-flew the Highlands Highway from Mt Hagen through to Mendi.  Some cracking in the road surface and landslides covering parts of the road were observed, but the highway did not appear blocked or cut off.

There have been numerous landslides, some of which have tragically claimed lives as well as cutting off roads and brought down power and communication lines. There is property damage as well as damage to farms and gardens.

'There are a lot of roadblocks from landslides that will prevent ease of access. There is also some landslides in different villages.' Sharlene Coker

The largest observed landslides were mainly spotted in sparsely populated (or uninhabited) areas.

Some ‘permanent structure’ housing showed damage with many damaged water tanks.  Traditional housing in remote areas is also affected and many show signs of damage.

South of Komo in the Southern Highlands region was the worst affected area along the aerial survey route.  There are very large landslides and some rivers or main water courses appeared blocked and this could pose a flood risk.  Rivers are very discoloured (silt and dirt) and this may affect safe drinking water.

The Komo airstrip is damaged and presently unusable due to large surface cracks and damaged edges.  Other remote airstrips appear undamaged.

Sharlene Coker of MAF PNG writes: 

'In many ways, the earthquake epicentre was in a fairly unpopulated area which is wonderful. From photos and aerial assessment most damage was just to hillsides and areas where people do not live. There are a lot of roadblocks from landslides that will prevent ease of access. There is also some landslides in different villages.'

Technology Services (CRMF) is broadcasting information over its HF radio network and inviting reports of needs and damage.  Continued power cuts and intermittent communication via mobile networks has meant that the Technology Services HF radio network has been invaluable in contacting the remote communities. 

MAF has received many requests for medical evacuation flights which are being scheduled in. A medical evacuation flight to an affected area of the Western Province was unable to land today due to a landslide preventing people reaching the airstrip. 

Please continue to pray for communities

  • Many rivers are blocked and there are concerns that at some point they will let go and flooding may become an issue. 
  • We are hearing clean water is not available in several locations.
  • Many gardens have been destroyed. This may impact food availability for communities