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:
More from THE NATIONAL: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.
From the ABC website: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.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007 ... 094111.htm
And the following comes from the NEWS.COM.AU website: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.
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."
http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22 ... 01,00.html
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.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 will keep you all posted if I hear anything more.