By ISAAC NICHOLAS and WALLACE KIALA
MORE than 15,000 people are facing a food shortage after heavy rain lashed Oro province over the weekend, destroying food gardens and inundating homes, schools, roads and bridges.
Roads have become impassable with rivers bursting their banks and diverting course in some places.
Around this time two years ago, heavy rain caused by Cyclone Guba devastated the province. But the damage this time is not as extensive.
The National Government has responded with an initial K2 million towards the disaster.
Member for Ijivitari, David Arore, who is on the ground, said last night that the flooding had caused the Girua River to change its course, rendering the Girua Bridge useless on the other side of the river.
He said the Sambogo Bridge leading into Buna had been swept away by heavy floods, and Embogo High School was under water, while the care centre built to house the victims of Cyclone Guba has been destroyed.
He said Eroro village and Dombada village were also under water.
“In the next couple of days, we will be without food, especially in the flooded Sauga area that has a population of 10,000 and another 5,000-6,000 villagers in the Oro Bay area. “The urgent problem now is we cannot do wet crossing at Girua because the landowners are demanding K600,000 promised to them after the 2007 disaster where they gave away their land as a passage-way,” Mr Arore said.
He added that the landowners wanted that money to be paid upfront before they allow the use of the passage-way now.
Mr Arore said that he had made a commitment of K50,000 for this purpose.
He appealed to Oro Governor Suckling Tamanabae and Sohe MP Anthony Nene to fund the remaining K550,000.
Mr Arore has also released a further K50,000 for an urgent assessment of the situation.
Meanwhile, Minister for Public Service, Works and Transport, Peter O’Neill, is flying into the province today.
He has allocated K2 million towards emergency works on the Girua Bridge along the Northern Highway.
Girua Bridge is the main link between the provincial capital, Popondetta, the airport at Girua and the main wharf at Oro Bay.
The minister and his department secretary, Joel Luma, will work out a full response strategy after the visit.
National Disaster Centre acting director Martin Mose said last night the NDC was still waiting for a comprehensive situation report from the provincial disaster office after receiving only inconclusive reports relayed by phone by the acting Oro provincial administrator on Sunday.
Mr Mose added that since the provincial wharf was located at Oro Bay, all commercial activities, such as transportation of goods to shops in town and Higaturu Oil Palm Estate moving harvested oil palm to the wharf, would be disrupted.
People in Oro Bay are also cut off from travelling into town.
Mr Mose said those who were heading to the airport from the other side would also be affected because the Girua Bridge, although not completely damaged, was now impassable and was closed.
It was one of the new bridges built in the province after the devastation caused by Cyclone Guba.