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FOUR girls who died in last Monday’s 7.5 magnitude earthquake were farewelled in a funeral on Friday — as authorities put the death toll in Southern Highlands alone at 35.
The youngest of the girls was Blesinah Timbol, 8, who was in Grade 3 at Kumin Primary School. Also attending the same school were Grade 6 student Gloria Petrus, 13, and Grade 7 student Annmarie Nelson Pat. The fourth was Grace Mopune Dopo, 15, who was in Grade 9 at Mendi Secondary School.
Acting Southern Highlands administrator Thomas Eluh said the confirmed deaths so far in the province were 35.
The death toll in Hela, the other province badly hit by the earthquake, has reportedly climbed to more than 20.
Eluh, the chairman of the provincial disaster committee, told The National in Mendi that another 25 deaths in Southern Highlands were yet to be confirmed.
They included 22 at Mt Bosavi in the Nipa-Kutubu district and three in Ialibu-Pangia.
He said Nipa-Kutubu district recorded the highest confirmed deaths with 23, followed by Mendi-Munhiu with 11, and one from Ialibu-Pangia.
He will update the figures as reports come in from the five districts this week.
“The reports are slowly coming in from the districts. We expect to get more reports on deaths this week,” he said.
Eluh said it was hard to get information from, or travel to, some remote areas because of communication problems and damaged roads.
Provincial authorities are using only one helicopter to carry the investigation team around and to bring in badly injured people to Mendi.
He said the provincial disaster committee needed two helicopters.
Eluh said it was a massive disaster which had claimed many lives and destroyed properties and the committee needed the assistance of big companies operating in the province.
A trust account will be opened with the Bank of South Pacific this week where people and business houses can deposit their donations.
“They are our people. Their lives and livelihood have been badly affected and they need our assistance at this time,” he said.

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