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120 tonnes of food delivered to PNG earthquake-affected areas: O’Neill

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says 120 tonnes of food, water and medicine have already been transported to the earthquake-affected areas.

He told the FM100 talkback show in Port Moresby on Friday that the earthquake affected “quite a large area” covering the Highlands region, Western, parts of Gulf, and the Sepik provinces.

“Emergency restoration effort is being carried out because of the urgency (by the Government) in bringing in food, water and medicine to the affected communities particularly in Hela and Southern Highlands,” he said.

“Over 100 people died. Many more are missing. That number is expected to rise. Many communities are torn apart and displaced. Relief efforts are ongoing.

“In terms of the Restoration Authority, the Attorney-General has drafted the Act. Once it’s been cleared by the legislative counsel, I will call for an immediate session of parliament.

“I have to give a seven-day notice (to the Speaker). As soon as a clearance is given, we will introduce the Act to Parliament.”

He said most of the landslips blocking the highway between Mt Hagen and Tari had been cleared.

“Light trucks have started moving. Heavier trucks are starting to move in Tari and Hela province, meaning that we can now take in relief supplies in containers,” he said.

He said in the past few days, “we have been able to transport almost 120 tonnes of food, water and medicine to Moro, which are then distributed to all the villages in the affected areas.

“In terms of the roads, we have cleared all the roads from Kikori (Gulf), all the way up to what we call the pipeline road that is Kutubu (Southern Highlands).” He said the authorities were trying to restore all the services “the best we can”.

“The ongoing aftershocks are continuing to produce landslips even after we have cleared them,” he said.

“So we have contractors permanently based in each section of the highway. Their job is to continuously clear the highway, day and night so that traffic and movement of people and especially movement of relief supplies is our priority.”

Meanwhile, it will take about a year to rebuild infrastructure damaged by the 7.5 magnitude earthquake 15 days ago, says Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

He told a radio talkback show in Port Moresby on Friday that the rebuilding phase would take time.

“Health centres and hospitals that collapsed, rebuilding of that will take time. Probably over the next 12 months is an estimated time for us to rebuild many of these infrastructure,” he said.

“Rebuilding of Komo airport (in Hela) will take some time. Over 900 metres of crack happened right in the middle of the airport.

“No heavy-loaded planes can land for the project and to service the area. So that airport remains closed. The engineers are already on the ground.

“The experts from US and Australia have been mobilised and are doing studies on the ground whether we can rescue that airport or not.

“It certainly will take some time to rebuild.” He said many school facilities had been badly damaged.

“Some students have to be transferred to other schools that can cater for them,” he said.

“In fact, for grades 11 and 12, (we are talking about) the possibility of moving them to other provinces, especially to boarding schools so that they can be able to continue their education.”

Education Secretary Dr Uke Kombra said last week that many schools and higher institutions in the earthquake-affected areas remained closed as authorities await detailed reports of the situation before addressing them.

Kombra said the education department had tasked regional and provincial school inspectors in Southern Highlands, Enga, Hela and Western to check the schools and submit reports.

“We will also send some officers from Port Moresby to assess the situation, then we will decide what to do,” the secretary said.

“From the information we have received and also from what we have read in the papers, some schools were affected while others were not. But we will need a detailed report from our officers to make a decision.”

Kombra said that in the meantime, affected schools remain “unofficially closed.

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