Buried alive

Main Stories, National

The National, Monday November 4th, 2013


EIGHT people are believed buried under a massive landslide that hit the Kenagi section of the Highlands Highway in Eastern Highlands on Saturday night.

The body of a ninth person was recovered yesterday. The missing eight include two Grade Four children – a boy and a girl attending the Ona-Keto Primary School – two men and four women. 

A 15-seater bus and a vehicle plus thousands of kina worth of properties are believed buried under the debris.

Police and provincial government officials from Chimbu and Eastern Highlands have closed the portion of the highway indefinitely to allow the search for those still trapped under the landslide to proceed quickly.

Chimbu Governor Noah Kool said lives and tens of thousands of kina worth of properties had been lost and the Highlands Highway, the life-line of the economy, had been cut off.

“We will lead a delegation from Chimbu and Eastern Highlands to see Works Minister Francis Awesa, National Disaster coordinator Martin Mose and the prime minister to source immediate help for the affected families and relatives,” Kool said.

Awesa, who is in Australia, said last night he had been briefed on the disaster and that a Works Department team had been sent to the Kenagi. Speaking on behalf of the affected families, Herry Karapa and Kare Gandi said the first landslide happened around 10pm on Saturday night which buried people and properties. The next occurred around 4am yesterday.

Police, government officials from Chimbu and Eastern Highlands have pooled together resources to deal with the disaster and assist the affected families.

Kool, Eastern Highlands provincial administrator Bill Kavanamur and Eastern Highlands Provincial Police Commander John Kale were at the site yesterday. 

They also met Eastern Highlands Governor Julie Soso. They are expected to seek the government’s assistance.

The closure of the Highlands Highway is a national problem that needs the government’s intervention.

Trucks, PMV buses, motorists and commuters cannot use the highway. 

Trucks bound for the hinterlands of the highlands region from Chimbu were stranded yesterday.

Supt Kale warned highway users to take extra care while travelling through the Daulo Pass and Watabung sections during the rainy season.

He also appealed to business houses and highway users to delay their travel plans and wait for the highway to be cleared.