Radio Australia News: Updated 12 September 2012, 12:00 AEST
Heavy rain in the highlands in Papua New Guinea has caused flooding and landslides, with a number reported killed and roads and bridges washed away. The PNG National Disaster Centre says nearly 200,000 people are being affected in Southern Highlands province. The Kagua-Erave district is said to have been the worst hit, with half a dozen bridges destroyed as well as a number of properties. So far, the damage bill has been put at around six million dollars.
Presenter:Firmin Nanol Speaker: Martin Mose, director of the PNG National Disaster Centre
MOSE: One that was severely affected was over the Yellow River, that bridge was completely cut off and disappeared. The others they're either tilting or the base are just being eroded through heavy flooding, so I guess they're in a pretty bad way as well. But they need to be quickly strengthened by way of emergency back-filling and other structural work that needs to be carried out to save the bridge.
NANOL: Now have any lives been lost?
MOSE: Well according to reports at this stage around about two lives, but again we just need to get more confirmation on that. But I think according to the report it's the infrastructure that is causing greatest concern right now because of what actually happened to them, they're being destroyed. There's not been any reports of that they have properly established how many communities have been affected, and that's where humanitarian effort comes in. And of course just looking at the report that has just come through just before 12 from the Southern Highlands provincial disaster coordinator, it seems to me that we may need to send in an assessment team to further investigate that and probably have some aerial assessment as well as land assessment on the situation just to confirm that. I don't think there's been more than the number recorded so far claimed to have lost, and that basically the two lives they say that have been lost. We still have to confirm in what region in particular to substantiate it.
NANOL: Mr Mose there were reports of three people buried alive in another separate location from a mudslide?
MOSE: No, not at this stage and I think those are the things that we just need to confirm on.
NANOL: What is the total cost of infrastructure that has been damaged stand at now?
MOSE: Well it could be well over 20 million, if they need to rehabilitate bridges to their normal standard and status again. But I think what is immediately needed from the national government now, the funds that are immediately needed to immediately secure and of course open up an access that the people can use and the … well I think we're looking at close to about ten million at the most.
NANOL: How many people are being cut off from the main town of Mendi in the Southern Highlands, any estimate of how many exactly are being affected?
MOSE: What has been reported, it could be a little over 200-thousand, probably if that is broken up then you'll know exactly how many from the Kagua-Erave and others from the surrounding areas within the province itself. But work is underway there, roads that had been closed which have been opened up, what needs to be properly recuperated so that it can reduce travelling time around or cut down on travel timing. They still have to make do with what will now be upgraded a little while waiting for.
NANOL: What about the multi-billion dollar PNG LNG Project? Has that been directly affected?
MOSE: Well I don't think so, I don't think so. Looking at the way the report has been presented the access direct, but otherwise I think the road condition to the other side needs upgrading so that it can improve the access.