Flood catches villagers unaware

National, Normal

By PETER WARI DWU journalism student

HUNDREDS of villagers were driven out of their homes in Dei, Western Highlands province, when the Gumanch River burst its banks and flooded their villages on Wednesday.
Describing the flood as a nightmare, many were sleeping when flood waters rushed into their houses, soaking beddings and damaging personal belongings.
Between 16,000 and 20,000 people from the Kombuga, Rolga, Kukilga, Eliti and Nenga Milimp tribes were affected after the river overflowed, destroying food gardens and damaging houses.
The worse affected villages were Dirty Wara, Koli, Raimb, Rumbi, Metmab and Omi villages.
Four churches were submerged by water up to half the height of their structures and 13 trade store operators lost all their goods.
About 15 houses were submerged under water.
Hectares of food gardens were destroyed and many underwater and heaps of debris piled up on food gardens.
Between 200 and 300 pigs were believed to have drowned or washed away with two houses containing four-week-old chickens.
The rain started pouring at 1pm on Tuesday and continued until 10pm.
The Gumanch River burst its banks about an hour later, catching sleeping villagers by surprise.
PMVs and other vehicles were stranded at Dirty Wara for about three hours until 9am when the water level subsided.
Nokie Malt and John Koim told The National they lost most of their household belongings in the “nightmare” when the water rose in their house.
Another victim, John Kewa said: “I could not believe my eyes when I saw water rushing in while having a meal.”
Many mothers and children were seen diving into the water to retrieve cooking utensils and clothes swept away by the water when The National visited the area.
A local pastor, Timothy Gemend, said: “Thousands are seeking refuge with relatives and friends.
“The Government must intervene quickly in aid relief and food supply.”
Affected community leaders and elders said this would have not happened if Kandep MP Don Polye had fulfilled his commitment when he was deputy prime minister in 2006.
Mr Polye had said River Gumanch needed to be drained into Waghi River to avoid such overflows.
They said Mr Polye had given K50,000 to a contractor at a groundbreaking ceremony in 2006 and an additional K100,000 to complete the job.
In Kondopina, the three small culverts installed by Cameron Construction were unable to reduce the stress in the Waghi River, especially during wet seasons.
This resulted in the formation of a “lake” on the other side of the road, destroying houses, coffee and food gardens and church buildings.
The “lake” also affected work on the Kindeng to Kondopina  and Banz road upgrading.
Chief of the settlers living between Kindeng and Kondopina Michael Mondo said the same disaster had struck again after last Feb 16.
“The people were in the process of re-building their homes and lives when they were hit again,” he added.
He said he had asked Cameron Construction and the Works Department to replace the three small culverts with bigger ones last year.
Provincial disaster coordinator Joseph Nop Amban said at the scene yesterday that poor engineering had resulted in the formation of the “lake”.
“If the contractor had listened to the community leaders and used bigger culverts, this would not have occurred.”