We have now all learnt that tragedy has struck residents living near ExxonMobil's Souther Highlands operation. A large landslide 1km long has destroyed dozens of homes. Sadly, the death toll could reach 60.
Source: ABC News
Clearly our first thoughts must go out to the family of the victims. However, given the scale of this tragedy it would be remiss if we did not consider whether there was a causal link between the landslide and ExxonMobil's operations. When asked by ABC Radio, Exxonmobil denied the link. Nevertheless, disturbing evidence is beginning to emerge.
For example, in today's Namarong Report it was reported that United Nations PNG Coordinator has pointed the finger at Exxonmobil's operation. However, perhaps most damningly Bill Yomba from the National Disaster Office made the following remark to CNN:
"This is a very huge landslide that covered a 1 kilometer area. We are still trying to find out the cause but at this stage we believe the gas project run by Esso Higlands Limited was a contributor because they had been digging for limestone in the area".According to the ABC's Liam Fox similar accusations are being levelled by villagers near the landslide:
"There are people - locals are already drawing some links. How correct that is, we're not able to say yet. But they believe that the quarry next to the landslide site caused the landslide. That blasting in the past has, quote, 'softened the ground' as they have said. And that quarry was used by the LNG site for its operations. But Exxon Mobil says that's not the case anymore and hasn't been for about six months."The Post-Courier is relaying similar views from the ground:
"Locals blamed international contractor Clough Curtain Joint Venture (CCJV) for not developing the Tumbi quarry including proper safety procedures that resulted in the loose rocks and soil from the top of Gigira mountain range to cascade causing severe destructions on its way down."In a move that may seem insensitive in light of the tragedy, ExxonMobil has resumed work in the affected area - whether this risks further destabilising the site we are not sure. ExxonMobil's spokesman Rebecca Arnold has informed investors and customers this event will not prevent it from meeting its corporate targets.
Rest assured LNG Watch will keep readers fully updated on information as it comes to hand. It is absolutely essential for the victims and their family that the accusations again ExxonMobil are thoroughly investigated.