Tropical Cyclone GUBA Hits Oro Province, PNG

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Tropical Cyclone GUBA Hits Oro Province, PNG

Post by Daniel Leahy » Tue Nov 20, 2007 1:56 pm

Hi All,

I only heard about this yesterday morning. It appears that after Tropical Cyclone GUBA headed away from Queensland, it hit Papua New Guinea and has caused tremendous damage in Oro Province - The Province where Popondetta/Dobodura and the tail end of the Kokoda Track are located.

Oro Province is also home to the Buna-Gona-Sanananda beachheads where Justin and I travelled and documented in 2005 and 2006.

More than 70 people have been reported dead, another 55 missing, and 2000 left homeless.

News articles relating to this are below:-

From PNG's THE NATIONAL:
http://www.thenational.com.pg/112007/Nation%203.htm
Oro situation desperate

THOUSANDS of people are flocking into Popondetta town from all over the Oro province in search of food and water and to hear from provincial authorities what actions are being taken to assist victims of the extensive flooding in the province.

Despite efforts by local authorities to distribute food and water to the severely affected areas, a large crowd formed outside the provincial administration office yesterday morning expressing their anger at the authorities for delaying the dispatch of much needed food, medicine and water to the needy.

Sohe MP David Arore, who has travelled to the affected areas, placed the death toll at 75, but authorities fear the number could be higher.

Last night, there were unconfirmed reports of more deaths at Kumusi and Governor Suckling Tamanabae was to visit the area today, officials said.

Authorities in the province fear those who survived the flood but are stranded in the affected areas could die of starvation or illness if help does not reach these areas quickly.

Some food and water were shuttled by helicopter into some of the worst affected villages but the assistance offered so far is seen as inadequate.

Provincial authorities are using the Health radio network to communicate with the districts and are working around the clock to confirm the exact number of deaths so far.

They put the toll of missing people at 54.

Governor Tamanabae said yesterday the PNG Governments and its disaster relief agencies and the country’s security forces did not have the capacity to adequately provide relief to the thousands of people affected by the crisis.

“I am grateful that cabinet had declared a State of Emergency in the province but a massive relief operation, greater than the National Government’s commitment, is urgently needed to save the lives of people affected by the disaster.

“I am urgently appealing to Australian government and the international community, the Red Cross and other relief agencies to reach out to Oro in its moment of need,” he pleaded.

He said that eight days had passed and more people would die if food, water, medicines, shelter and cooking utensils were not delivered to the people quickly.

Jim Andrews, the Assistant Police Commissioner in charge of operations, yesterday confirmed that a contingent of policemen from Port Moresby was preparing to fly into Popondetta to help keep law and order.

He said the influx of people into Popondetta could spark desperate situations and police need to be on hand for such situations.

A senior manager with Price Rite Supermarket in Popondetta said stocks were running out fast and supplies may run out in three weeks.

“People are buying bales of rice and flour, canned fish and meat and we are trying our best to ration the supplies so that the food is equally distributed to the needy people,” he said.

A team of police officers from Popondetta was flown to Oro Bay to provide security for food supplies off-loaded by vessels at the wharf after villagers tried to break open the containers.

The only service station in Popondetta has run out of diesel and petrol and the last remaining kerosene is likely to run out by today as people continued to queue up to make their purchase.
More from THE NATIONAL:
http://www.thenational.com.pg/112007/Nation%204.htm
Oro declared disaster area

THE National Executive Council has declared a state of emergency in the flood-ravaged Oro province even as it considered a massive reconstruction work in the area that could cost the Government at least K500million.

The NEC met yesterday morning to discuss the current flood disaster and endorsed the declaration of a state of emergency and the immediate release of K50 million for relief supplies.

A cabinet source said the NEC would pump in about K500 million for rehabilitation and reconstruction work.

Sir Michael said he was saddened by the enormity of the situation in the province.

“Continuous heavy rains associated with category 1 tropical Cyclone Guba over the last couple of days had severely affected the entire province.
“Over 145,000 people in both the Sohe and Ijivitari districts had been directly affected by the heavy flooding,” Sir Michael said.

He said major strategic infrastructure had been completely destroyed and would take some time to restore.

The Prime Minister said Cabinet had endorsed the declaration of a state of emergency in the province.

He said cabinet had endorsed the release of up to K50 million at this point to help affected communities.

“We will appoint a controller and a deputy controller to take charge of the situation under the State of emergency Act.”

Sir Michael said the PNG Defence Force, also permitted under the State of Emergency Act on disasters mandated by the Constitution, would play a role in the coordination of relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts on the ground.

A police contingent left on the first CASA flight into Girua airport and the second flight with Defence force team comprising engineers, communication specialists and logistics personnel have been deployed.

The Defence Force team would set up communications and assess the situation on the ground.

Meanwhile, reports from the province said that food supplies were running low with major supermarkets allowing only one bag of rice per family to be bought.
From the ABC website:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007 ... 094111.htm
PNG flood toll reaches 71
By PNG Correspondent Steve Marshall

Posted Sun Nov 18, 2007 7:04pm AEDT
Updated Sun Nov 18, 2007 8:39pm AEDT

Heavy flooding caused by Cyclone Guba has reportedly killed more than 70 people in Papua New Guinea.

Seven consecutive days of heavy rain left a trail of destruction in Oro Province.

More than 70 people are reported to have been killed in Papua New Guinea because of heavy flooding caused by Cyclone Guba.

Seven consecutive days of heavy rain left a trail of destruction in Oro Province, north of Port Moresby.

The death toll has increased dramatically since Friday evening from three to at least 71, with another 55 people missing.

Reports from the provincial capital Popendetta claim the town is like an island with roads and bridges to the airport and main wharf destroyed.

Disaster officials are still assessing the damage and fear more deaths could occur if the thousands of people displaced by the rains are not helped soon.

Eyewitness reports

Reverend Glenn Buijs is an Anglican Minister visiting Papua New Guinea.

He has told the Australia Network he rushed to a low lying village early this morning after the cyclone hit, and found a scene of devastation.

"There were lots of logs and debris that had come down from the hills in the river that had been washed out to the sea, and by the time we got to the school, and the village near the school, they had been totally annihilated," he said.

"The villages were under probably 2.5 to 3 metres of logs, which would have stretched a kilometre or more."

He says the toll is probably a lot higher than believed.

"There were a number of huts where it was just the roof sticking above the debris and we tried to climb in and have a look," he said.

"At that stage we were told that a number of people had been swept away.

"We knew of at least one woman who'd come into the hospital with a broken arm - she'd been rescued trapped under a house, and her husband and two children had been washed away."
And the following comes from the NEWS.COM.AU website:
http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22 ... 01,00.html
PNG declares state of emergency

By Lloyd Jones in Port Moresby
November 19, 2007 03:39pm

A STATE of emergency has been declared in Papua New Guinea's flood-ravaged Oro Province following widespread destruction and reports that more than 70 people were swept to their deaths.

PNG's cabinet today declared the state of emergency and approved the use of the PNG Defence Force for relief operations and the release of up to 50 million kina ($20 million) to assist flood victims.

Prime Minister Michael Somare said he was saddened by the enormity of the disaster. He said the damage would take some time to fix.

Oro province faces a huge repair bill after hundreds of houses and dozens of key bridges and roads were washed away during last week's heavy rains associated with tropical cyclone Guba in the Coral Sea.

The death toll was still unclear today with varying reports from government disaster officials and PNG's media.

Officials late yesterday put the confirmed death toll at 17 with many more reported missing after flood waters devastated villages along the coast and in the mountainous interior.

The Post-Courier and The National newspapers reported more than 70 dead and more than 50 missing but National Radio put the death toll at 40 this morning.

The toll would become clearer as flood waters receded and police and disaster officials reached remote communities by helicopter today to assess the impact, officials said.

Health officials warned of outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera, dysentery and malaria due to a lack of clean drinking water and proper sanitation in cut-off communities.

Hundreds of houses and food gardens were washed away, the provincial airport and main wharf were closed after being cut off and the main water supply to the provincial capital Popondetta was shut down.

Police spokesman David Terry, speaking from Popondetta, said a massive relief operation was needed because of the scale of the disaster across the entire province.

"The biggest fear now is the aftermath. If there's no assistance the people will succumb to starvation and sickness through waterborne diseases."

Reports came in of people washed away in surging floodwaters, dead bodies being retrieved, houses toppling into swollen rivers and coffins washed from riverside graves.

At Numba village, a family of 11 was reportedly washed away in their house.

Provincial Governor Suckling Tamanabae appealed to the national Government and international donors for help, saying thousands of villagers could die from disease and starvation if relief supplies did not reach them quickly.

Foreign missions and international aid agencies including AusAID were monitoring the situation and standing by to assist.

No requests for assistance had been received by late today but PNG's Works Minister Don Polye said the Australian Defence Force may be asked to help with airlifting relief supplies.

Provincial engineers put the cost of rebuilding bridges, roads and wharves at more than two billion kina.

The Red Cross today had a shipment of tarpaulins and water containers ready to transport to Oro.
I've been trying to get in contact with my friends in the area to find out what has happened directly from them, but this is appearing harder than I had thought.

I will keep you all posted if I hear anything more.
Daniel Leahy
Canberra, Australia

RAAF CASUALTY DATABASE
http://www.raafdb.com

Daniel Leahy
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Post by Daniel Leahy » Tue Nov 20, 2007 3:28 pm

More on this from yesterday's POST COURIER:
http://www.postcourier.com.pg/20071120/news06.htm
Soldiers march into town

POLICE and soldiers were sent from Port Moresby to Northern Province yesterday on a special flight to help protect people and property in the flood-ravaged areas.

They were landed at Girua airport in the morning and had to do a forced march past villages to reach Popondetta, the provincial capital.

The men were still marching last night, hoping to reach the town by 10 last night, as there was no transport available to bring them in.

Post-Courier reporter Simon Eroro, who is from the province, flew in with the 23 mobile squad policemen and a five-man Defence Force reconnaissance unit on the military CASA plane.

Eroro reported in by mobile phone last night, telling of the march in sometimes heavy rain as the group walked past villages on their way to Popondetta.

At one stage during a phone conversation, the weather was relatively clear and the marchers could see the moon. Then heavy rain set in.

He said the supplies being sent in by the government had not reached most people as of late yesterday and there were reports that co-ordination of the relief effort was not working smoothly as yet.

The policemen are from mobile unit 2 and the soldiers are from Murray Barracks.

Today will mark a week from the day when the torrential rains and flooding began to take their toll on Oro villagers and settlements.

“People are still pulling bodies out of the water,’’ Eroro said last night.

“It seems certain that the death toll will go a lot higher, because there are badly affected areas without radio communications and we have not heard from them so far.’’

The reporter said people were already going hungry.

He said there had been rumours that some people were planning to raid stores in the Oro Bay area, where many villages had been wiped out. However police had moved in to prevent such a thing.
Daniel Leahy
Canberra, Australia

RAAF CASUALTY DATABASE
http://www.raafdb.com

Daniel Leahy
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Post by Daniel Leahy » Wed Nov 21, 2007 6:51 am

Today I spoke with my mate in Popondetta who has advised that my friends in the area are okay, however, pretty much all hell has broken loose in much of the province.

Here's more from today's NEWS.COM.AU website:
http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22 ... 96,00.html
PNG flood toll passes 150

By Lloyd Jones in Port Moresby
November 21, 2007 12:50pm

death toll from devastating floods in Papua New Guinea's Oro Province has passed 150 and could rise further as reports come in from remote areas, disaster officials say.

They also warned that needy and displaced villagers could die of water borne diseases and starvation if relief supplies and medical assistance did not reach them in time.

The PNG government has declared a state of emergency in the province where floods washed away hundreds of houses along with roads, bridges and food gardens following days of heavy rain last week.

Australian and other international aid agencies are standing ready to assist.

Officials put the latest death toll at 153 with dozens still reported missing based on radioed reports from coastal and mountain villages across the province.

The previous figure was just over 70.

Most of the deaths were of people washed away in surging flood waters, with bodies later recovered downstream in swollen rivers and streams.

Churches, business houses and other non-government groups are organising their own relief operations amidst calls for the provincial and central government to speed up delivery of relief supplies.

The closure of the province's main airport and main port, cut off from the provincial capital Popondetta due to ruined bridges, has hampered relief work.

Bad weather in recent days prevented some helicopter flights from Port Moresby to Popondetta over the Owen Stanley ranges, crossed by the famed wartime Kokoda Track where the trekking season is over with the onset of the wet.

The Kokoda Track Foundation has launched an appeal and urged Australians to draw on the spirit of Kokoda to provide emergency medical supplies and assist villagers at the Oro end of the track.

Oro Governor Suckling Tamanabae said he was disappointed at the time it had taken the national government to respond to the disaster and he appealed to international donors to assist.

Crowds have gathered daily outside the provincial headquarters in Popondetta, expressing their anger to officials over delays in sending out supplies to villages.

Four choppers were today ferrying police and other officials to remote villages to assist community leaders in relief efforts and recovery of bodies.

Emergency supplies of rice have been airlifted to some of the worst-affected areas.

PNG's cabinet has approved the use of the PNG Defence Force for relief operations and the release of 50 million kina ($20 million) for immediate disaster relief.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the Australian Government stood ready to assist and was seeking a clearer indication of the extent of the disaster from the PNG government.
Daniel Leahy
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Post by Daniel Leahy » Thu Nov 22, 2007 5:00 pm

More on this from NEWS.COM - Australia has finally committed aid:
http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22 ... 96,00.html
Aussie military planes provide flood aid

By Lloyd Jones in Port Moresby
November 22, 2007 05:39pm

AUSTRALIAN defence force planes have joined a critical aid mission for thousands of flood victims in Papua New Guinea, as looting broke out in hard-hit Oro province.

Last week's floods left thousands homeless, and officials fear the death toll of about 160 could rise dramatically unless food and clean water supplies quickly reach survivors.

There are security fears in Oro province, north of the capital Port Moresby, after looters made off with a rice shipment and local MPs were accused of commandeering relief supplies for their own villages.

Australia today sent in two C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and two smaller Caribous to start distributing AusAID supplies, including water purification tablets, emergency shelters, blankets and generators.

Another Caribou and three Army Blackhawk helicopters will join the effort tomorrow, and a Royal Australian Navy heavy landing craft is on standby in Cairns if needed.

"Australia will always respond quickly and work in close co-operation to help our friends in PNG," Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said.

An AusAID assessment team will travel to Oro today to report on the scale of the damage and the most urgent requirements.

AusAID disaster management and health experts will join them tomorrow.

Canberra also announced today that Australia would provide up to $1m in humanitarian assistance for the province, where a state of emergency has been declared.

The floods have destroyed homes as well as roads and bridges, hampering initial relief efforts.

Officials say many villagers are surviving on coconuts and bananas, with some diving down to their submerged food gardens to salvage produce.

Villagers have gathered daily outside the administration office in the provincial capital Popondetta, hurling abuse at officials for failing to deliver food and water more quickly.

The PNG government has released 50 million kina ($20m) for disaster relief, but Oro Governor Suckling Tamanabae said efforts to help survivors had been too slow.

One disaster worker said that villagers, acting on the orders of local MP David Arore, went to the main wharf in Popondetta and looted a container of rice that belonged to local supermarkets.

They had taken the rice by boat to Berma village in Mr Arore's electorate, he said.

Authorities stopped the looting and presented Mr Arore with an invoice but more security was needed to prevent a repeat of such incidents, the worker said.

Disaster officials have accused both Mr Tamanabae and Mr Arore of commandeering relief stocks of food and medicine to distribute to their own people.

"We are supposed to co-ordinate the distribution of supplies, we know where the affected people are," one official said.

Mr Arore said the disaster officials were not doing their jobs so he had stepped in to do it for them.

Australian businessman and Oro resident Dale McCarthy, who has been helping with the relief effort, today welcomed Australia's contribution.

"It's going to lift everyone's spirits, that's for sure," he said.
Daniel Leahy
Canberra, Australia

RAAF CASUALTY DATABASE
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Daniel Leahy
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Post by Daniel Leahy » Mon Nov 26, 2007 4:19 pm

Still more from NEWS.COM.AU:
http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22 ... 96,00.html
PNG floods expose WWII bombs and shells

By Lloyd Jones in Port Moresby
November 25, 2007 06:40pm

DISASTER officials in Papua New Guinea's flood-ravaged Oro Province are warning people to avoid unexploded wartime bombs and shells uncovered by surging waters.

The province was the scene of vicious fighting between Australian and Japanese troops in World War II.

Unexploded bombs and shells lie buried in the war zones where hundreds of diggers were killed.

But recent severe flooding has brought Australian troops back to the province to assist in a major relief effort.

Australian Army Black Hawk helicopters are due to start flying much-needed relief supplies to flood victims in Oro early tomorrow.

The three choppers will join two Royal Australian Air Force Hercules and three Caribou transport aircraft which have been ferrying in supplies to base airfields.

The death toll from the flooding has passed 170.

Thousands of villagers were left homeless after heavy rains associated with tropical cyclone Guba lashed the province, sending torrents of water and uprooted trees down the rivers.

AusAID and other international relief agencies are assisting PNG authorities in getting aid to stricken villagers to prevent feared outbreaks of waterborne diseases or starvation.

AusAID field coordinator Bill Costello said no major disease outbreaks had been reported, but injured people in remote areas needed to be evacuated to hospitals and cases of diarrhoea were rising.

There were reports of buried unexploded ordnance being exposed by the flooding, he said.

"We are trying to get some public information messages out on the radio for people not to touch it."
The province's main port was cut off from the provincial capital Popondetta when bridges were washed away.

An alternative landing beach was designated at the wartime village of Gona, but a barge loaded with tonnes of relief supplies today failed to get close enough to the shore to lower its bow ramp.

Dozens of villagers swam out and hauled water containers and drums of diesel to the shore after the barge's crew threw them into the water.
Daniel Leahy
Canberra, Australia

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http://www.raafdb.com

Daniel Leahy
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Post by Daniel Leahy » Wed Nov 28, 2007 3:45 am

The following comes from the POST COURIER:
http://www.postcourier.com.pg/20071126/news01.htm
Mass burials
Oro relatives return to villages, find more bodies

BODIES are being buried in mass graves along coastal areas in Oro Province as villagers return home to find more bodies as floodwaters and high seas subside.

The death toll from floods and high seas whipped up by tropical Cyclone Guba two weeks ago is expected to hit 250 as more people are expected to die from starvation and diseases.

In the hinterlands, hundreds of people are still trapped and unable to come out in fear of landslides.

A large number of casualties have yet to be brought out for medical attention.

Relief efforts by the National Government, after declaring a State of Emergency in the province are slowly trickling in.

Three days after disaster struck SOE Controller Vagi Oala said relief supplies had been sent to the worst affected areas.

Two Islands Aviation helicopters are engaged in the delivery of relief supplies to hard hit villages.

Three Australian Army Caribou aircraft flew in with supplies on Friday doubling relief supply efforts.

A barge carrying foreign mission relief supplies sailed into Gona from Lae also on Friday as the international community stepped up aid efforts.

Reports reaching Popondetta say starving villagers are diving underwater where they believe their gardens exist to pull out vegetables to eat.

Oro Bay Local Level Government Ward 2 councillor Wallace Jiki and Bareji Ward 1 councillor Nigel Begu both arrived from Pongani yesterday to seek relief supplies for their wards.

They reported 60 people being washed away by the floods at Pongani in the Managalas Plateau.

Mr Jiki said until yesterday 16 bodies have been found buried without formal ceremony.
Daniel Leahy
Canberra, Australia

RAAF CASUALTY DATABASE
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