Papua New Guinea - Earthquake OCHA Situation Report No. 2
OCHA Situation Report No. 2
Papua New Guinea - Earthquake
19 September 2002
This situation report is based on information provided by a small UNDAC team currently in Wewak assisting the East Sepik Provincial Disaster Committee, supplemented by information available at the national and international level.
1. It is 10 days since a 7.6 earthquake shook the north coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG) 95km west-northwest of Wewak, capital of East Sepik Province, at 0444 hours (local) on Monday 9 September. The earthquake generated a 1.5m high tsunami, which struck some areas along the coast and the outer islands of the province, particularly Muschu and Kairuru, 20km northwest of Wewak, and Walis and Tarawai, 55 km away. Strong aftershocks up to magnitude 6.3 occurred on the evenings of both 16 and 17 September.
2. The shaking destroyed approximately 520 bush dwellings in the outer islands, and damaged a further 200, affecting some 4,400 people (873 families) through the loss of or damage to their homes, gardens, or other private and communal property, including water pipelines and tanks. Three people - 2 women and a child - were killed immediately, and another woman died later of her injuries. Over 70 people were injured, but only 34 seriously enough to warrant hospitalisation.
3. The tsunami destroyed fewer buildings but did destroy dugout canoes on the beaches, which are used both for inshore fishing and transport. Muschu and Kairuru islands appear to have risen about half a metre, though this has not yet been verified by technical survey. Kairuru, a mountainous island rising to 2493m, has suffered from numerous large and small landslides along the steeper coastlines ,and particularly in places adjacent to garden areas. A number of new hot springs have also emerged in some areas.
4. Wewak Township (population 25,000) escaped lightly. Most buildings are constructed of wood or concrete, and though some suffered structural damage none collapsed. A bridge and some power lines were damaged, but they are now back in use. The earthquake burst the water main in three places and though repairs are underway, supplies have not yet been restored to all parts of the town.
5. The police post at Maprik, 30 km inland from the East and West Sepik borders and the main inland settlement in the province, reported collapsed houses and burst water tanks, but no casualties, landslides, or other damage. Other inland areas also reported some damage to bush dwellings and many burst or toppled water tanks, but generally inland areas suffered less than the islands. Damage reports from inland areas filtered into Wewak more slowly, and have not yet been consolidated with overall statistics.
6. West Sepik Province fared better than its eastern neighbour, with some collapsed bush dwellings and more burst water tanks, but no casualties. According to the Catholic Diocese of Aitape, Suain Village was worst affected with ten houses and five water tanks destroyed, and a further three tanks at Wati.
7. The most significant consequence of the earthquake is loss of homes in the outer islands. Fortunately, the lightness of bush-house construction meant that there were very few casualties. Nevertheless, nearly 800 families are without a roof over their heads, and are currently sharing undamaged or lightly damaged houses with their relatives and neighbours in very cramped conditions. The highest priority need is therefore for temporary shelter materials.
8. Water supply is also critical, as many community and household water tanks have burst or toppled, and some normal water sources - mainly streams and wells - are flowing at reduced rates or are contaminated by sediment. Stream water is expected to return to normal after a few weeks. Basic medical supplies and drugs are also needed, for first aid purposes and to treat malaria and influenza.
9. Food stocks are reduced due to the loss of gardens through landslides, and the uplift of the reef on Kairuru and Muschu has killed the shallower coral and the shellfish that are normally collected just off the beaches. Sufficient stocks of cultivated crops are still available in the villages, supplemented by processed foods, bush resources, and offshore fishing, which have not been affected by the disaster. However, villagers need to be reassured that it is safe to return to their gardens, and that they may resume fishing, since they fear further earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis.
10. Over the next few weeks and months, the affected families need house reconstruction materials. Most materials are available from the bush, although there may be localised shortages of hard-wood for frames, for walling, and sago palm leaves for roof thatch, due to heavy demand. The only manufactured items required are nails, hinges and hand tools. Communities will need assistance to restore their water supplies, through the provision of basic construction materials for intake works, water tanks and piping.
11. Beyond shelter materials and water containers in the short term, the likely needs in the medium term are for basic building materials and tools, water tanks, pipes and fittings. In the longer term, external technical assistance may be needed for water supply development, evaluation of the safety sustainability of garden areas, best practice in the utilisation of reef and other maritime resources, and building disaster management capacity in the province.
National and International Response
12. The East Sepik Provincial Administration has put much of its managerial resources and physical assets behind the relief efforts. Although lacking a formal disaster management plan, the administration immediately established a Provincial Disaster Committee (PDC), which declared a state of emergency on Monday 9 September. The first damage assessments took place from the same morning, and a needs assessment process employing nine multi-disciplinary teams with standardised forms commenced on Thursday 12 September. Limited quantities of relief were distributed to communities by these teams as they conducted the initial assessment. The PDC also established an operations, information and logistics coordination centre, and subsequently agreed on an action plan and timeline for the management of the emergency phase. The Provincial Administration has so far expended K 50,000 (USD 14,000) of its own limited funds and considerable in-kind resources.
13. The National Government has contributed K 550,000 (USD 153,000) to cover the K 119,000 (USD 33,000) expended and the K 200,000 (USD 56,000) already committed. The Government has also supported the response with the transport assets, manpower, and technical expertise of the PNG Defence Force, the Departments of Works and Health, the water board, the police and correctional services, the National Disaster Management Office and the Geophysical Observatory in Port Moresby.
14. Save the Children Fund PNG has donated K 12,000 (USD 3,300) worth of water containers, whilst the Catholic Diocese of Wewak and the Mormon Church have provided more water containers, tents, tarpaulins and building materials, and counselling to affected villagers. An important feature of the response has been the degree of support from local business houses, which have contributed K 20,000 (USD 5,600) worth of relief supplies and provided other assistance, including the coordination centre facilities and the time of their staff.
15. In terms of technical assistance, the University of Technology from Lae has set up a network of seismic monitoring stations on Kairuru Island, and the University of PNG has also despatched an expert to address some of the concerns of people that they face continuing threats of earthquakes, tsunamis, and even volcanic eruptions.
16. In-country bilateral donors and international organisations have expressed their willingness to provide assistance if required, but are awaiting guidance from the National Disaster Committee in Port Moresby, as to the most appropriate support.
17. UNICEF conducted a brief survey of the Kairuru and Muschu Islands, but has not formulated any intervention yet. A two-person UNDAC team with members from New Zealand and OCHA was dispatched on Thursday 12 September to assist the United Nations Resident Coordinator and the Country Team with assessment, and the Provincial Administration with response coordination.
Telephone: +41-22-917 1234
Fax: +41-22-917 0023
In case of emergency only: Tel. +41-22-917 2010
Mr. R. Muller / Ms. M. Spaak / Mr. S. Nakajima
Direct Tel. +41-22-917 3131 / 1728 / 4034
(in GVA) - Ms. Elizabeth Byrs, direct Tel. +41-22-917 2653
(in N.Y.) - Mr. Brian Grogan, direct Tel. +1-212-963 11 43
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.