Then National, Tuesday 11th September, 2012
By YVONNE HAIP
KAGUA-Erave locals isolated by the recent floods which carried away their main link to the capital Mendi, Southern Highlands, and the rest of the highlands are calling for the fast-tracking of emergency relief supplies.
This, however, may be some time coming as Waigani does not have any assessment report from the Southern Highlands provincial disaster coordinating team of what is required on the ground.
As many as 100,000 people in the Kagua-Erave area are affected.
The only means of travel out of the district is via air and locals want relevant authorities to negotiate for the clearance of abandoned airstrips to allow for light aircraft into the area.
But reports reaching The National have indicated that airstrips in Erave, Sembiriki, Waluanda, Mt Awa, Sopise and Wapusale have also been hit by the floods and are still under water.
According to the provincial emergency and disaster coordination team, the electorate was hard hit as a result of continuous heavy rains in the province over the past two weeks.
The people are now cut off from the rest of the province and PNG after flash floods swept away the Yalo bridge, as well as at least nine other bridges in the area.
Kagua local and provincial education advisor Joel Raitano, who had been part of the team tasked by caretaker provincial administrator Ungia Kembo, to conduct assessments in the disaster struck area at the weekend said the people were suffering.
Raitano said the people needed immediate relief supplies and were mourning the traditional way for the Yalo River Bridge that was completely washed away last Thursday night.
“The 40m Yalo Bridge (seven kona) has been completely washed away, there is no trace of it, it is gone and the people have no other way to cross the fast-flowing river,” he said.
“A trade store near the bridge, and anything 10m away from the river banks had been swept away by the rushing tide leaving it deserted.”
Bridges on the same Yalo River connecting Pale and Siwi Utame in Ialibu, and Kendagl between Ialibu basin and Kumbame (leading to main highway) were also destroyed during the flood.
People are now trying to gather remains of the bridge, now lying on a 75 degree angle, to construct a makeshift bridge but these attempts are failing, Raitano said.
He said seven cane bridges along Yalo River connecting the Ialibu-Pangia electorate and Kagua-Erave were also gone.
The bridges link Rawame to Mabuanda, Walupo to Limbo,Walapape to Kuwi, Poleo to Kolapi, Moroa to Kalawira, Tembikene to Kaporoi, and Waima to Rumbalere.
Raitano said the cane bridges could not be rebuilt by the villagers because trees beside the stream had been uprooted and the river was still flooding.
He said students living on the other side of the river were unable to attend school as it was “dangerous”to cross and there were no other bridges.
Kagua-Erave has one secondary school, two high schools, two vocational centres, 218 elementary schools and 40 primary schools.
“Thousands of students attending these schools will be forced to miss classes, while day students in Grade 10 will be hard-hit because their national examinations are next month,” Raitano said.
“It is the peak period for students who resumed classes after it was disrupted by the elections and authorities need to act fast,” he said.