Severe weather kills 23 in PNG

(Photo: FILE)

Twenty three persons, including a pregnant woman and seven children, died as flash floods and landslips wreaked havoc across Chimbu in Papua New Guinea last week. 

The tragedies, resulting from continuous heavy rains, had disrupted daily life, impacting the movement of people, disrupting students’ classes, and causing widespread destruction to villages and food gardens. 

Weather forecasts warned of continuous heavy rain, with the likelihood of flooding and more possible landslides. 

Reports said the natural disasters had taken a toll on this region, leaving communities in grief and hardship. 

There were reports of flashfloods in Kerowagi, Kundiawa-Gembogl and Sinasina-Yongomugl, while Chuave and Gumine and parts of Kundiawa-Gembogl were hit with landslides over the past two weeks. 

The National Weather Office on Wednesday said the continuous rainfall was due to a low-pressure developing in the Coral Sea and moving westward. 

National Weather Service assistant director Kasis Inape said the weather pattern was contributing to the heavy rain and strong winds experienced throughout the country. 

Inape said Port Moresby, Milne Bay islands and parts of the central Papuan coasts would be particularly affected by very strong winds exceeding 50km/h. 

An eyewitness said Gumine experienced numerous landslides along the main road with one major landslip at Sikola village in Digine local level government (LLG) area around 6am on Wednesday, which buried 10 persons. 

Two men were critically injured and referred to the Kundiawa General Hospital. 

Meanwhile, the other three reportedly died in a landslide in North Chimbu. 

Local businessman Vincent Kumura said two were from Dinipene village, which included a Gr 6 student of Denglagu Primary School and his mother, and another from Bomkane. 

Locals discovered their bodies while searching for properties carried away in the landslides. 

Another 10 were reported killed in the natural disasters in the Bonglkane area of Nilkande LLG, Kundiawa-Gembogl. 

Gumine MP Lucas Dawa Dekena said remains of the 10 at Sikola had not been uncounted for and “are believed to be buried (alive) in the mud and debris from Wednesday’s huge landslide”. 

He said there were 12 landslips occurrence along the main Gumine-Kundiawa highway, cutting-off people and displacing them. 

“We are unable to reach all the affected sites due to the big one in the front and another one at the border of Gumine and Karimui-Nomane,” Dekena told The National. 

Kundiawa-Gembogl MP and Mining Minister Muguwa Dilu, in a press conference yesterday, said about 10 persons in the district’s Bonglkane area in Nilkande (LLG) were reported dead in relation to the recent wet weather. 

Dilu did not specify whether floods or landslips had caused the death but said five bridges were also washed away by floodwaters, cutting off people moving between Gembogl and Kundiawa town. 

He said the floodwaters and landslides had destroyed fresh produces such as bulb onions, cabbages, carrots and washed away homes and properties, affecting between 40,000 and 50,000 people in the district. 

He said officers would be send to the district to assess the situation before sending a report to the National Executive Council and the Department of Works and Highways for deliberation and assistance. 

In another incident, about 340 students from Wara Simbu Demonstration Primary School in Sinasina-Yongomugl were unable to attend classes after part of the school was damaged by landslide on Monday. 

Community spokesperson Francis Alua said two teachers’ houses and four classrooms were damaged. 

Good gardens and structures belonging to communities along the Waghi River were also destroyed while landslips damaged parts of the Elimbari ring road in Chuave. 

On the North Chimbu incident, businessman Kumura said: “The landslips were huge, destroying several villages and causing the complete removal of the Kangrie Bridge. 

“The road between Gembogl station and Mt Wilhelm is inaccessible.” 

He said the affected villages included Dinipene, Kangrie, Bomkane, Bugadenigle, Alsingend, Gambugl and Gembogl station. 

Kumura said Wilhelm Secondary School, with a student population of 1,300, could face an early closure due to food shortages. 

MP Dekena assured the people that teams were working around the clock to clear debris at Koltamak, and attend to the two new landslides at Garinda and Baul before reaching Sikola. 

He said most of the work would start when the weather improves. Machinery was already on the ground ready to work. 

“We need the disaster office to visit the sites and assess the situation. 

“We also need rescue workers to assist in the search for the 10 unaccounted lives,” Dekena said..

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