By PILA WASU
TWO people are reportedly missing in the Cenaka area of West New Britain province and an old man was buried by a massive landside caused by heavy rain in the Bialla district this week.
More than 120,000 people in the district have been cut off from the capital Kimbe after the Yamule River burst its banks, causing it to change course, which also forced traffic to come to a complete halt.
People bound for Kimbe were forced to turn back and vehicles were stranded on either side of the river.
In the neighbouring Hoskins area, traffic was forced to stop on opposing banks for more than eight hours after the Koo Creek flooded, covering the bridge with debris. However, vehicles were able to use the bridge after the water level subsided but provincial disaster officials are expected to declare some parts of West New Britain a disaster zone after ground inspections.
In Kimbe town, two houses with livestock, including pigs and 24 chickens, and food gardens were washed away by the San Remo Creek and the number of properties destroyed is expected to increase as heavy downpour continues in the province.
An inspection yesterday afternoon in different parts of the town and the Hoskins area confirmed that most homes were under water and residents were forced to move their households to higher, dry locations.
Two leaders from the Cenaka area in the Bialla district said that an elderly couple did not return home on Sunday afternoon and a search party was organised and sent into the bush to help locate them.
Leaders Boas Mateo and John Kaule said the couple had gone to their garden on the other side of the Bilomi River but did not return home that afternoon. They said the party could not do much as the river was flooded.
“If they do not show up by today (Tuesday), then we can presume that they may have drowned,” Mr Mateo said.
This would be confirmed by the disaster officials, as they were yet to get reports from the people on the ground.
When contacted, an officer said they were yet to receive reports from the area and would not confirm how many human lives were lost but he confirmed that there was widespread damage by the flooding rivers and creeks in recent days.