By ZACHERY PER
TRAFFIC into the Highlands including western half of Eastern Highlands province was completely cut off following the collapse of a culvert bridge on the Henganofi section of the Okuk Highway.
Movement of cargo, equipment, betelnut bags and passengers from Lae sea port, Lae city and Madang bound for Eastern Highlands, Simbu, Western Highlands, Enga and Southern Highlands was affected.
The most affected were the heavy equipment and materials bound for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects, Southern Highlands oil fields and the giant Porgera gold mine in Enga province.
Likewise, coffee beans for overseas markets and greens from the Highlands bound for coastal town markets were also stranded.
According to the locals in Henganofi, the Korokorente (Krox) section at Narazate creek collapsed after the culvert buckled under the weight of heavy trucks.
Former Henganofi ward councilor, Kepsy Kebo and community representative, Wilba Ano said the section of the Highway collapsed two weeks ago.
The villagers helped to fix the Highway and allowed normal traffic to resume.
“After fixing the road, we demanded major trucking firms pay us K1,000 each for our gesture in fixing the road.
“To date they have not paid us. We want them to pay us before any maintenance work is carried out to restore traffic,” Mr Ano said.
“It’s an emergency situation but the Government does not seem to bother when it should be the first to intervene,” he added.
Mr Ano said: “We respect the law and will continue to help commuters pass through the section. But we want trucking firms to pay us as they have already made so much money using this section of the road which we are helping to maintain.”
Mr Kebo said letters were delivered to trucking firms two weeks ago but they had not responded.
Commuters are getting off on either side of the affected section and are walking on a small section to catch PMVs.
Most affected are betelnut vendors, vegetable farmers and PMV operators apart from trucks ferrying cargo and fuel into the Highlands.