A year after the devastating Feb 26 earthquake, PNG Oil Search’s communications team tells its story in this two-part series on the company’s recovery assistance to the communities impacted by the disaster in Hela, Southern Highlands and Western.
THE magnitude 7.5 earthquake which struck at 3.44am a year ago today on Feb 26 left hundreds of people dead and-or missing with thousands more injured.
The earthquake’s epicentre was 10km west of Komo in the Hela but its devastating force affected parts of Southern Highlands, Gulf and Western.
With the area’s challenging landscape and the remoteness of many villages, it is unlikely the exact number of casualties will ever be known.
Established in the heart of this region is Oil Search, operator of PNG’s producing oil fields, a company that has been investing in PNG for 90 years.
Oil Search managing director Peter Botten said Oil Search continues to provide long-term recovery assistance to the communities impacted by the disaster in the Hela, Southern Highlands and Western.
“In partnership with the Oil Search Foundation, we are working to provide access to clean water and sanitation facilities, re-establish gardens to support subsistance lifestyles and rebuild houses, roads and infrastructure.’’
Oil Search’s efforts and role as a first responder in the earthquake has been acknowledged and recognised both locally and internationally.
“These awards are recognition of the many who returned to site or chose to stay in the field, working long hours to rebuild camps and deliver emergency relief to the surrounding communities, despite the ongoing threats of further aftershocks,’’ Botten said.
“We played a critical first responder role in the unfolding crisis, with the UN estimating that we delivered approximately 80 per cent of total food supplies to affected areas in the first four weeks following the earthquake
“I would like to again thank our employees and contractors who showed excellent professionalism and went beyond the call of duty, performing tasks outside their normal roles.’’
Just days after the initial earthquake, Oil Search committed an initial K16 million in cash and kind to support disaster relief efforts in the worst hit provinces of Hela and Southern Highlands.
Today, it remains just as committed in helping communities get back on their feet through ongoing restoration and recovery efforts such as providing safe water and sanitation facilities, re-establishing gardens and repairing or rebuilding houses, school facilities, roads and infrastructure damaged by the earthquake.
The focus has now shifted from relief aid to recovery and reconstruction.
On the road to recovery
For the village communities of Sisibia, Kaipu, Hebaiya, Ai’o, Kaipu and Hedinia in Southern Highlands, hope and a degree of normalcy came in the sound of gushing water being pumped again into tanks.
In Hebaiya, more than 500 villagers were left without clean water for drinking, cooking and washing since the earthquake struck forcing locals to walk five hundred metres to the nearest creek to bath, do laundry and fetch water for cooking and drinking.
“The only thing that was affected in our village was the water supply as a result of the damaged pump so the tanks were not receiving any
water,” Pius Nadu, a Hebaiya villager said.
The village community had received the water pump along with storage tanks as part of Oil Search’s major drought relief initiative that was designed to ensure ongoing clean water supply for villages following the 2015 drought that affected the Highlands region.
The company was back there again to help the community following the earthquake.
“Now we can hear water being pumped into the tanks and we are grateful to Oil Search’s Community Affairs team for being here to fix this problem and we now have water running from our taps again,” Pius added.
Following a post-earthquake assessment by Oil Search’s Community Affairs Department, the team identified extensive damages to water supplies, community and social infrastructure, solar panels and a church building.
Immediate work began on restoring clean running water for drinking, cooking and washing in affected communities with solar panels and water tanks either fixed or installed in Kaipu and Sisibia clinics.
In addition, the Oil Search emergency response team began delivering restoration kits to villages to commence rebuilding their homes which were damaged by the earthquake.
The restoration kits included basic tools like saws, hammers, nails and basic household items.
Starter packs were also distributed by Oil Search to local communities, which consist of basic building tools and other household essentials like plates, buckets, pots and pans.
These are basic yet essential items that are found in a house to help communities rebuild their lives.
Back to school
For Kutubu Secondary School, the process of rebuilding is well underway with the near completion of a new mess block.
The mess is essential to operate the boarding facility.
They are resuming classes after a whole year off.
The Oil Search earthquake recovery team had earlier completed reconstruction work on the 4.5km-feeder road to the school, and also for the Inu community, located next to the school.
The access road was badly affected by slips that required stabilising and drainage that was blocked.
The principal, Bai Irabo had engaged local youths from the area to do maintenance work but that was not going to be enough.
The reconstruction of the road by Oil Search was completed in December, and is aiding the reconstruction work on the school itself.
The school had sourced timber and other building material from local saw mill operators and suppliers and had engaged the help of local carpenters.
Oil Search donated 30 bags of cement and two truckloads of builders mix.
“Oil Search’s commitment in rebuilding our communities through the Oil Search Foundation and our partners continues a year after the earthquake. The level of self-reliance demonstrated by Kutubu Secondary School is exemplary,” said Leon Buskens, Oil Search General Manager for PNG Stakeholder Engagement.
Kutubu Secondary School feeder road gets facelift
After the earthquake, Kutubu Secondary School in Southern Highlands was some of the government infrastructure that was badly affected.
The 4.5lm-feeder road that leads into the school had slips that required stabilising and drainage that was blocked.
Principal Bai Irabo had engaged local youths from the area to do maintenance on critical sections of the road but it was never going to be enough.
The Oil Search Earthquake Infrastructure Recovery team completed reconstruction work along the road to restore access to the school and the Inu community.
The work scope includes stabilisation in areas, construction of new pavement and drainage which allowed building materials to be brought into the school for restoration work.
The road reconstruction work was done by Clough Niugini in collaboration with landowner companies, the Upper Foe Development Corporation and Peripi Development Corporation which was supported by a work team from Inu community.
The road reconstruction work was critical allowing restoration work to begin at the school before the 2019 school year.
- Tomorrow we continue with to look at Oil Search’s humanitarian role since the Feb 26 earthquake hit last year.