Sunday, 4 March 2018

HIGHLANDS HIGHWAY DIARY (Part 2) - Roadblocks Welcomed Us Into Disaster Affected Hela Province

The road trip to Tari began at 10am from Mendi as we drove into areas that were affected by the earthquake in the Southern Highlands and Hela provinces.

Parts of the roads in the Southern Highlands province were partly blocked by debris from landslips caused by the earthquake.

At Poroma we were confronted by some men at a roadblock armed with bushknives and a shotgun charging K200 for every vehicle that passes through the section.

We handed them K100 they refused to let us through and demanded another K50 to be paid. Upon payment they removed three huge boulders they've used to block the road with.

We went on through to Nipa station, the roads weren't in good condition either. We were anticipating another roadblock as we drove past.

For most of us on board it was a first-time experience for us to have traveled through a roadblock in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

We drove passed Tari gap into Ambua where we were stopped just before Dauli bridge. A fight has erupted and two people were shot by the enemy faction just minutes before we arrived. The incident occurred during a "rausim haus karai" ceremony of a child who was killed during the earthquake on Monday.

It was an unfortunate incident to have transpired during a time of disaster in the province.

So far Tari hospital has reported 16 deaths from the disaster and it's expected to increase as reports are still coming in.

More than 200 volunteers (mostly public servants) have been engaged by the Hela Provincial Disaster team to assist in providing assistance and support.

Hela political leaders James Marape, Petrus Thomas and Governor Philip Undialu have held discussions with the disaster team on how to act on addressing the issue.

There have also been 37 confirmed deaths in Southern Highlands and 25 unconfirmed deaths reported. 

The  death toll is expected to increase in the coming days as rescue efforts continue.

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