"We declare our first goal to be for every person to be dynamically involved in the process of freeing himself or herself from every form of domination or oppression so that each man or woman will have the opportunity to develop as a whole person in relationship with others".

- Papua New Guinea National Goals and Directive Principles

Monday, 5 March 2012

Yogoyo Piwago lost twelve family members at Tumbi - This is his story

Yogoyo Piwago survived death by only 15 minutes on January 24. Yogoyo, however, lost twelve family members. This is his story. 

I woke up early, it was around 5:30am. I told my son Jackson - who was doing grade six at Yuni Primary School - to lock the door as it was still early in the morning. Dere Beke from Pori was awake also, but he was putting on his shoes while me and another man jumped into the pickup truck to go to work at the LNG project. 

About 15 minutes later, as we were driving up a hill, I received a mobile phone call ... "there is a landslide, and your house and properties are covered”. 

I thought it was a small landslide, so I responded to the caller and said, please phone my son Jackson and see where the damage is. 

The caller said, "there is no one left…all of us are fleeing out the area and we cannot see anyone". I jumped down from the pickup truck ran down from the hill and jumped on another vehicle and drove to my house.  

When I arrived, I could not believe what I saw. The underground water at Tumbi had sprung out from underneath the rocks and was flowing out into the village and the big rocks and the land had collapsed. 

I could not see my houses, my gardens, people were fleeing for their safety.  I shouted, "Jackson, Jackson, Jackson" ... but I received no answer. People on the other side of the landslide were shouting, “Yogoyo Piwago, the mountain is still coming, it will kill you, don’t cross it".

But I was confused, I kept on walking over the rocks. I really wanted to know whether my family was safe or buried under the mountain. After calling and searching, I eventually realised that all my family had been buried alive. Twelve of my family members had perished under the landslide, I lost 2 wives (one pregnant) and six children and another six people who were my relatives and guests. 

If I had sat to put on my shoes together with Dere Beke, who works as a crane operator with CCJV than I would have been buried under the landslide. My family has lived here for twelve generations, I am the thirteenth. I have never seen such a landslide in my area. 

CCJV and ExxonMobil has narrowed and blocked the Tumbi water flow by putting in culverts and also they filled in huge stones for their work on the Tumbi quarry mountain. They even used chemicals at the headwaters of Tumbi and blasts for the quarry. This combination of factors of water blockage and the quarry has caused the huge landslides that buried my 12 family members, in addition to 15 pigs, 8 houses, gardens and properties. 

I am still traumatized.

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