Landslides block off H’lands Highway

National, Normal

TRAFFIC along the Highlands Highway has been halted after landslides and mud slips blocked the highway at five different sections between the Daulo Pass and Magiro sections in Eastern Highlands province.
Simbu provincial police commander Supt Joseph Tondop and his Eastern Highlands counterpart Chief Supt Augustine Wampe yesterday confirmed the blockade caused by the landslips and warned travellers, motorists and trucking firms to avoid travelling at this period due to heavy rain.
Supt Tondop said continuous rain caused the landslips to occur on the side of a mountain that completely blocked the highway throwing traffic into total disarray.
He said there were five landslips reported in the area. The major landslide was at the Watabung section that completely cut the highway off.
It is likely to take three to four days to clear the highway.
“The landslide has also thrown mud, stones, logs and other debris onto the highway and it is difficult for trucks and light vehicles to pass through,” Supt Tondop said.
Chief Supt Wampe said trucks bound for Simbu, Western Highlands, Enga and Southern Highlands provinces were left stranded in Goroka.
He said they negotiated with Eastern Highlands provincial Works to clear the landslide and the debris to restore traffic, but compensation demands by landowners is likely to delay work.
Representatives from trucking firms Waghi Valley Transport and Kutubu Transport are closely monitoring the situation, worried their business would be affected.
The Daulo Pass, Watabung and Magiro sections of the highway are prone to landslides and mud slips especially during rainy periods.
PMVs and big trucks were stranded on either side of the highway and commuters had to cross 4km from one side to the other to continue their journey. The landslide occurred at around 2am on Sunday morning.
Community leader from the Porowagun clan, Jack Lango, said villagers heard a big noise near their house that night and ran out to discover what had happened.
Mr Lango said no one was injured but most of their food gardens have been destroyed.