Papua New Guinea: Highlands Earthquake Situation Report No. 1 (as of 10 March 2018)
This report is produced by the National Disaster Centre, the Office of the Resident Coordinator and the United Nations Coordination and Assessment (UNDAC) Team in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It was issued by the Disaster Management Team Secretariat. It covers the period from 29 February to 10 March 2018. The next report will be issued on or around 14 March.
An earthquake measuring M7.5 occurred on 26 February 2018 at 3:44 am (25 February, 17:44 UTC). The epicentre was located in the Southern Highlands. There have been a series of strong aftershocks, including a M6.7 quake on 8 March in the same area and a M6.8 quake off the coast of New Ireland.
The Government has declared a state of emergency on 2 March for Hela, Southern Highlands, Western and Enga provinces.
According to initial estimates, over 544,000 people are affected across the five most affected provinces. Over 270,000 people require immediate humanitarian assistance.
Priority needs include medicine, tarpaulins and tents, blankets, food, and water. The Government, private companies and humanitarian partners have focused initial relief efforts on communities in the worst-hit seven Local Level Government (LLGs) in Hela and Southern Highlands provinces.
Damage to infrastructure, including airfields, bridges and access roads limit access to communities.
The Government has established Forward Operating Bases in Mt. Hagen and Moro, as well as Emergency Operations Centres in Mendi and Tari.
People targeted for assistance
Displaced in Western Province
Local Level Government Units
On 26 February 2018, at 03:44AM local time, an earthquake measuring M7.5 hit the Highlands region of Papua New Guinea (PNG), with its epicentre located 30 km south of Tari town, Hela Province. A series of strong aftershocks, including a M6.7 quake on 8 March in the same area and a M6.8 quake off the coast of New Ireland, caused widespread panic amongst the communities, and forcing many to sleep outside and under the rain.
According to preliminary estimates and based on latest earthquake intensity mapping produced by the National Disaster Centre (NDC), about 544,000 people in five provinces were exposed to strong to violent shaking and more than 270,000 people are in immediate need of assistance. These figures are expected to increase as more areas become accessible.
While damages were reported in Enga, Gulf, Hela, Southern Highlands and Western Highlands provinces, Southern Highlands and Hela Provinces have been the worst affected. North Koroba, South Koroba, Yahapuga Rural, Koma rural, Hulia Rural, Nipa Rural and Lake Kutubu Rural are the seven most affected Local Level Government (LLG) areas in Hela and Southern Highlands Provinces.
Understanding the full extent of the impact of the earthquake in remote mountainous and hilly area will take some additional time as access to many affected areas remains limited. On 9 March, the Government has cleared the main Highlands Highway connecting Western Highlands, Southern Highlands, and Hela. However, many roads linking to the Highway remain impassable.
Many locals are traumatized. Afraid of returning to their homes, they stay in informal care centres and move onwards as aftershocks occur. Over 26,000 people are displaced in Western Province. As tensions grow, people move to more central locations hoping to access relief items more quickly.
Immediate needs include medicine, tarpaulins and tents, blankets, food, and water. The Government, private companies and humanitarian partners have focused initial relief efforts on communities in the worst-hit seven LLGs in Hela and Southern Highlands provinces. Private companies and bilateral partners, including Australia, Japan and New Zealand, play a critical role in the early phase of the response. They work closely with UN agencies, NGOs, CSO, FBOs and the Red Cross. Humanitarian partners have provided food to over 34,400 people in Nipa Kutubu LLG and Komo Magarima LLG. Up to 54,260 households are estimated to be in need of emergency shelter. To date, 100 households in Mount Bosavi LLG and another 100 households in Para/Moro have received shelter equipment.
Landslides burying or damming traditional sources and increased observable turbidity in rivers and streams limit access to water for drinking, washing and cleaning. The National Department of Health and partners are planning for water quality assessment of water sources in Southern Highlands province and Gulf province (downstream) in the coming 72 hours. Meanwhile, partners have provided ten mobile water purification units and ten 3,700l water storage tanks.
While health facilities outside the catchment areas of private companies remain to be assessed, partners have distributed 100 per cent medical kits and 13 cartons of reproductive health kits to Mendi and Tari provincial hospitals and most impacted health facilities. Much needed vaccines (in cold boxes with cold packs) and vaccine devices have been transported to Hela, Southern Highlands, Enga and Western Highlands provinces. Routine immunization with TT vaccine are planned for over 60,000 children under 1 year of age and for over 758,000 women of reproductive age.
PNG-DF has deployed to the area to clear armed road blocks by local communities and ensure a safe relief distribution.