Huge landslide cuts off Madang highway

Main Stories, National

Report and picture by JEFFREY ELAPA

A MASSIVE landslide has blocked off an entire section of the Madang-Ramu Highway, a few metres away from the Usino junction in Madang province, leaving Madang town-bound traffic and passengers stranded at the site.
Continuous heavy rain has also caused many minor landslides in the area.
Usino-Bundi MP Samson Malcolm Kuli, who has been in his electorate for the past two months, said many sections of the highway from Usino to Tabo, near Madang, would be seriously damaged if the rain continues this week.
Mr Kuli said the rain had already caused much destruction – huge logs and mud had been deposited by flooding at Waput Primary School, the church and the village.
He said that several bridges had been washed away as well as cocoa trees and livestock, including chicken, and dogs.
More than 150 vehicles and hundreds of people travelling into Madang were stranded at Usino junction and spent two days in the bush because they could not pass through the massive landslide.
Many trucks returned to the Highlands or to Lae after witnessing the long queue of vehicles.
An earthmoving machine operator said it would take a couple of days to reopen the road to traffic.
A couple, Richard and Judy Alu, who travelled from the Highlands, said they had no choice but to stay overnight in their vehicle.
They said young children were hungry as there were no stores nearby for them to buy store food for the night.
However, they said, the next day, villagers from Usino junction set up a market at the landslide site to sell food to the starving commuters and drivers.
They said that after parts of the highway were cleared, they managed to drive through with the help of locals and stranded passengers who were charging K10 a vehicle
to get to Madang.
Until yesterday, bigger trucks carrying cargo in and out of Madang were still stranded and businesses would be affected.
Police traffic officer, Snr Const Frank Makora, said that a truck carrying office equipment and computers was looted in the Usino area after it slid off the road.