The MAF team in Sentani, Papua, launched a disaster response after torrential downpours caused terrible flash floods and landslides in the town where MAF is based on Saturday 16th March.
Over a hundred people lost their lives and many, including several MAF staff, were made homeless.
The following updates and prayer requests were shared by our team in Sentani who were deeply and personally affected by the floods. The team led by Mike Brown value your continued prayers.
Saturday - 16 March: Flash floods and landslides
‘This evening heavy rains have caused flooding and landslides all around the city,’ writes Mike Brown, Programme Manager for MAF Papua. ‘These floods and landslides have displaced many people. Over 500 people have relocated up the hill to the school where our Mission kids attend. The Basketball and Futsal gyms have been turned into temporary shelters for those that have been displaced.
‘Stories of missing family members and of people being swept away by the flooding are being told, while many others are being treated for serious injuries at the school clinic. There have been many from our mission community that have had water come into their houses. Roads in some areas are now impassable and may be so for some time.
‘Evrin Pratama, one of our MAF national mechanics, lost his home tonight due to a landslide and the family was very close to being trapped inside the house. He and his family are spending the night with our Ethnos360 missionary friends who lived close by.
‘There has been a quick mobilization of missionaries that have been working non-stop to care for the displaced folks up at the school. Clothes, blankets, mats, and water are being given out.
Please pray for the situation as the morning will reveal a lot more of the devastation that we are hearing about tonight.’
Sunday - 17 March: Help and consolation
‘Roads are getting cleared, but there are long waits to go just a few miles. The death toll I’m hearing is between 50 and 80 right now, but that will probably rise,’ Mike updates. ‘We are getting reports that at least five of our national staff have had flood damage to their houses. Some with a couple of feet of mud inside their homes. Several others with just a bit of water that started to come into that house.’
‘Pak Evrin and his family, who lost their home and belongings and barely escaped with their lives, are now staying on the MAF base in the guesthouse. MAF Disaster Response funds will be available to address some of the immediate needs that the MAF team and community are facing.’
MAF’s Linda Ringenberg, has been helping to care for the displaced families. ‘There are around 300 or so refugees who have been staying at the school gym since last night,’ she reports, ‘and many more who have been staying at the Wycliffe complex where we hold church. Both areas have been quite busy today caring for the wounded, giving clothes to those who needed them and feeding them breakfast, lunch and dinner.
‘The government, churches, and even local restaurants all were at the school today evaluating needs and bringing boxes of donated clothing, food, and other supplies for the people. Many of these people have lost loved ones, and tonight our school official has authorized the authorities to bring up the bodies of those who have been found from the local neighbourhood to have a wake tonight and a mass funeral service tomorrow before they are buried. It is very sobering to see so much loss and sorrow.’
Pray that God would comfort the hearts of all who have lost homes and loved ones.
Pray for the disaster relief effort to run smoothly and many come together to care for the needs of these people.
Pray for the neighbouring town of Doyo, where the Adventist Aviation complex is located. Most of their complex and runway and hangar are completely destroyed and many people have lost their homes.
Monday 18 March: Help for the homeless
Another great effort by the mission community and our MAF staff today. People are jumping in and helping where needed!
Tuesday 19 March: The third night of rain
‘Tuesday morning Papua. A third night of rain all night. my friend’s rain gage has overflowed every night,’ Mike shares, with a request that everyone prays for the rain to stop! ‘The gage holds up to six inches, he explains. ‘So we are looking at more than 18 inches in three days! I’m guessing there’s been a lot more damage as people start to get up this morning and check out the situation.
‘We have three of our National staff families living on base in an empty house and in our guest house. I think we might get a couple more today. Jared and Teresa Wiley moved out of their house up to higher ground. Their vehicles had to be dug out of the mud before they could move.
‘Helivada will be flying down this morning to help with delivering supplies to cut off areas. They will be staging out of our MAF facility here in Sentani.
‘This morning is a planned funeral service for those that were killed by this disaster. Still raining as I type this at 6:30 am so we will see what happens with that.
Pray for the workers. Many are looking tired and some getting sick.
Pray that the rain will stop! Every day the roads have to be re-cleared so that vehicles can pass.
Wednesday 20 March: Water, water everywhere!
‘Wednesday Night—It is raining again, as it has the last four nights. Last night’s rainfall was only 3.3 inches, so that is something to be thankful for compared to the over six inches each of the previous nights.’
‘Tuesday, MAF was able to do a survey flight around Sentani, Jayapura, Depabre and the back of Mount Cyclops. The flight revealed some damage to coastal villages but highlighted that most of the major damage was right here in the Sentani/Doyo Baru area.
‘There are several bridges that could become an issue if the rains continue and nothing is done to protect them. The road to Jayapura is open, but there are portions of the road that are damaged. The lake has risen three to four feet, thus hundreds of houses are now partially under water.
‘The plan is for the folks displaced and staying at the high school basketball gym to move to another location while the lower gym will continue to be used for another five days for those still needing shelter. Some government agencies are coming in and helping provide services for the people (health, food, etc.).
‘Today a government worker told us that over 40 bodies have washed down into the lake. These bodies have been taken to a location and are waiting for people to identify them. One of those was the body of a school night guard. Please be in prayer for that family.
‘The local water distribution will probably be down for months so clean drinking water will be an issue as well as water for bathing/restrooms at houses all over town. Our MAF base water is from a well and we are looking at ways to distribute clean water to our National employees and the community as we are able. Kind of ironic that water is so needed, yet not wanted at the same time!
We appreciate your prayers as we continue to serve the relief effort here in Sentani as well as our normal customers that are in need of flights.
Pray for the many different missions and churches helping out in so many ways. It is great to see the body of Christ working together like this.
May Christ’s love be seen through the actions of His people.