The National, Wednesday November 6th, 2013
By JAMES APA GUMUNO
POLICE have warned landowners hindering efforts to clear the Highlands Highways and look for the eight people buried under a landslide to allow engineers through.
Highlands divisional police commander Martin Lakari said the landowners at Daulo, in Eastern Highlands, must move aside to allow engineers and machines to clear the debris and re-open the highway.
The landslide on Saturday night buried nine people alive plus vehicles and other properties. A body was recovered on Sunday.
The landslide blocked a section of the highway, leaving trucks travelling to and from the PNG LNG project sites to be stranded on either side at Kengai village. Police said the villagers were stopping engineers and workers from getting to the landslide area because the bodies were still under the ground. The villagers are asking the government for compensation.
Lakari said yesterday the highway was the lifeline of the three million people in the six highlands provinces.
“If landowners refuse to allow the road to be cleared, I will use reasonable force to ensure the machines go in to clear the road,” Lakari said.
He urged landowners to respect other people and businesses in Chimbu, Jiwaka, Western Highlands, Enga, Southern Highlands and Hela.
He said it was a national road and work should start immediately to clear the road and restore traffic flow.
“I am deeply sad and sympathise with the relatives of the eight people believed to be buried under the debris,” he said.
“(But) it’s hard to blame anyone, including, the Government because it’s a natural disaster.”
Lakari said the Government had responded quickly to the disaster and allocated K100,000 in relief funds.
He said Government officers, including those from the National Disaster and Emergency Services, were at the site assessing the damage and trying their best to reach the people buried by the landslide. “I want the people to use their common sense and allow machines to move in and start clearing the roadblock,” he said.
Lakari said the highway should be cleared quickly because the road closure was affecting the LNG project in Hela and other mining companies.
He said businesses and people in the six highland provinces were affected.
Lakari has sent the provincial police commanders in Chimbu and Eastern Highlands to visit the site and talk to the landowners.
“There is no good reason why the traffic on the national road must be stopped for three days,” he said.