PNG province still reeling from tidal impact

papua

The Papua New Guinea province of New Ireland is still reeling from the huge seas that destroyed coastal homes and villages earlier this week.

Meanwhile, the Australian Government will provide up to $1 million to help Papua New Guineans affected by severe sea surges this week.

PNG disaster officials estimate that up to 50,000 people have been affected on the New Ireland mainland and the surrounding low-lying islands.

New Ireland is renowned for its big surf but this week’s huge swell even took the locals by surprise.

Coastal villages were either flattened or shunted off their footings up to 50 metres inland.

Local guest house owner John Knox’s business has been destroyed.

“I had a house here, the sea came, picked it up and threw it there,” he said.

“The bus was standing there … the sea came picked it up and though it there.”

Father of six Steven fled with his family into the hills when the sea rolled in.

Today he returned home to gather what was left – just a few waterlogged books.

“We have lost everything. We are not ready to leave so we are trying our best,” he said.

Unconfirmed reports say up to five people have been killed by the sudden storm surge that also struck the PNG mainland.

Further down the New Ireland coast, a health clinic had been flushed out by three-metre waves.

The Bol health clinic caters for around 5,000 islanders, but its medicine and supplies now lie soaked in sea water.

This type of destruction can be seen all along New Ireland’s coastline.

But while the people living here are lucky enough to be able to move in land to seek help, it is the people on the outer low-lying islands who are in desperate need.

Not only have they lost their homes, their food gardens have also been wiped out.

Australian pledge

The $1 million support includes relief supplies and funding for non-government organisations already responding to the disaster.

An Australian Defence Force C-130 will fly water containers, tarpaulins and water purification tablets, which will be distributed in the worst hit areas in New Ireland and Manus provinces.

New Ireland’s coastline is littered with battered villages and PNG disaster officials estimate that 50,000 people have been affected.

Those living in the outer low-lying islands are reported to have been hardest hit by a combination of huge swells and king tides.

Aid and evacuations

A PNG patrol boat has evacuated 120 people from one island but it is understood thousands more remain stranded elsewhere.

The PNG government has released $12 million for immediate aid.

For now a local Red Cross team is doing what it can along New Ireland’s one and only coastal road.

“We are giving them shelter, temporary shelter, water containers and blankets,” one Red Cross worker said.

High tides continue to hamper clean up efforts with locals offering theories on the cause.

“This global warming, most definitely the sea rises” said one man.

“There might be some kind of volcano somewhere” said another.

Visiting Australian surfers say a huge swell from Hawaii combined with the annual king tides.

“The high tides have created havoc along the coast,” surfer Clint Ward said.

While the swell has dropped a bit, the tides are expected to get creep even higher this weekend.

Australian scientist John Hunter happens to be researching sea level rise on a neighbouring island.

He said while the impact of global warming can only be measured in millimetres, an event such as this which happens once every 30 years will only become more regular, and he says Australia will not be immune.

© ABC

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