Komo was the epic center of the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck Hela and neighbouring provinces on Feb 26 at 3.44am.
The earthquake caused widespread shock, fear and confusion. Social media went viral with heart-breaking and panic-driven message posted by loved ones, and eyewitness accounts of people who survived the quake. The tremor destroyed properties, rivers, creeks, waterholes, food gardens, and displaced hundreds of people from Hela and Southern Highlands.
The National Government instantly endorsed the Emergency Disaster Restoration Team that was established by the National Executive Council (NEC) Decision 08/2017 that activated the emergency restoration and maintenance works under an accelerated procurement arrangement.
An estimated restoration timeframe was scheduled for four years with an allocation of K450 million to be paid in four tranches through a restoration authority bill that will be passed by Parliament when it reconvenes on April 6.
The National Government is leading the emergency response relief operations which are complimented by public-private partnership and development partners, technical advice and funding support from countries like like Australia, Japan, European Union, China, New Zealand and the United States.
The National Emergency Disaster Restoration team based in Port Moresby is coordinating the entire relief operations and registered all the pledges in bilateral contributions, donation in cash and kind towards the relief efforts.
The interim budget of the emergency restoration works is K100 million to support and restore essential public services including roads and bridges, health, education, power supply, communication, government office repairs, transportation, logistics and disaster management.
Provincial and district authorities are the first line of defence when dealing with and coordinating the welfare of the people, be it relocation, restoration and rebuilding the lives of the people through miscellaneous components of the district and provincial service improvement programme funds.
The National Government will focus on roads and infrastructure, health and education. In a nutshell Department of Works is a key player to open up road access as a cost-effective measure that would cost K42 million.
A total of K5 million has so far been spent on shelter, food, water, and non-food items (medicines, tents, mosquito nets, tanks, pumps). Logistics used for aerial assessments cost about K1.3 million mainly for helicopter hire.
The endorsed and approved coordination team members comprised of the controller Dr William Hamblin, Works Secretary David Wereh, his delegate John Kaio, Finance Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan, Defence Secretary Trevor Meauri, National Disaster Center Director Martin Mose, and the Southern Highlands and Hela provincial administrators.
According to the National Disaster Centre reports coming in, the baseline data that was established since March 18 revealed that an estimated 500,000 people were affected across SHP, Hela, Western, Gulf, and West Sepik.
Based on that report, over 200,000 people require immediate humanitarian assistance in items like medicines, tarpaulins, tents, blankets, food, and water.
So far 56,000 plus people have been reached by the relief efforts as more reports are coming in and new findings and data are collected and made available to ensure proper planning and execution by authorities involved.
The Government greatly acknowledges the efforts by the governments of Australia and New Zealand, Oil Search, ExxonMobil and Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) to restore the livelihoods of the people affected by the earthquake.
In that report the LLGs that are worst affected are North Koroba, South Koroba, Yahapuga Rural, Komo Rural, Hulia Rural, Nipa Rural and Lake Kutubu Rural.
These LLGs are located in remote areas with little or no road access, and can only be accessed through helicopters and airplanes.
The National Disaster Centre statistics show that 18,000-plus people are currently housed in informal care centers.
According to reports the total death toll is 100-plus people. However, the number may rise as many areas remain difficult to reach and more information is still coming in.
Findings and assessments conducted by experts deployed from various international and local agencies show that many locals are traumatised and afraid of returning to their homes. Some are staying in the informal care center or with family or community members.
Data collected from the epicenter in Komo-Magarima District, Hides 4 in Komo LLG, Timu and Hulia in Beneria LLG show that there is an estimated 7,000 displaced persons, most of them women and children.
Spillover effects were evident in the Kikori Delta of Gulf with reports of dead fish found in the Purari River. Department of Health and technical water experts have been deployed on site to investigate and report back to the center.
Based on preliminary estimates, earthquake intensity mapping and assessment data, the Government has prioritised:
• 37,689 people most severely affected and in need of immediate assistance in 7 LLGs in Hela and Southern Highlands;
• 232,753 people affected and needing assistance in Hela and Southern Highlands and some areas in Western; and
• 273,926 people affected in remaining areas in Hela, Southern Highlands, and many communities in Western and Enga provinces.
2. Situation Report
• People Affected-544, 368
• People in need of assistance – 270, 442
• Displaced in 26 informal care center -18, 200
• LLGs prioritised for urgent assistance -7
• US$45 million has been pledged in bilateral contributions to the relief efforts from five states (Australia, China, European Union, Japan United States and New Zealand)
• Government of PNG allocated K450m towards relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts
• Australia, New Zealand, Oil Search, ExxonMobil and MAF delivered in logistical support and military assets a critical lifeline for many remote communities. K80 million in cash donations and equipment to aid the relief efforts.
Disaster Trust Account
• K65 million plus in cash and kind
• People reached with food – 54, 987
• Water purification tablets distributed – 15, 000
• Mosquito nets distributed – 4,000
• Households in need of emergency shelter – 54,260
• People in need of psycho-social support – 143, 127