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Papua New Guinea Leader Extreme Weather Sparks Disasters

Photo : Reuters

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, James Marape, addressed the nation on Wednesday, attributing a series of devastating natural disasters to unprecedented weather patterns, costing the country over 500 million kina ($126 million) this year alone. Marape's remarks come in the wake of a catastrophic landslide in the Maip-Mulitaka area of Enga province, resulting in a tragic loss of life, estimated to surpass 2,000 casualties, with approximately 70,000 individuals affected by the calamity.

In a somber address to Parliament, Marape recounted the harrowing events, emphasizing the suddenness and severity of the disaster. "Our people in that village went to sleep for the last time, not knowing they would breathe their last breath as they were sleeping peacefully. Nature threw a disastrous landslip, submerged or covered the village," Marape solemnly stated.

The Prime Minister underscored the overarching impact of climate change, citing extreme rainfall leading to flooding in river areas, sea-level rise in coastal regions, and landslides in various locales across the country. Deputy Prime Minister John Rosso echoed Marape's sentiments, highlighting the pervasive nature of climate-related calamities throughout Papua New Guinea.

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In response to the crisis, Defense Minister Billy Joseph mobilized relief efforts, coordinating with international partners such as Australia, who dispatched military aircraft carrying essential supplies including food, water, blankets, and tents. Australia's High Commissioner, John Feakes, pledged continued support, with additional aid and technical assistance en route to the disaster zone.

Meanwhile, the United States pledged financial assistance totaling 2 million kina ($506,800) to facilitate emergency shelter and logistical support. Concerns mount over the risk of disease outbreaks amidst ongoing landslides, prompting thousands to evacuate as rescue operations face logistical challenges exacerbated by treacherous terrain and tribal unrest.

The landslide, impacting a critical section of highway near the Porgera gold mine operated by Barrick Gold, has prompted collaborative efforts between the government and the mining giant to restore vital infrastructure. Despite the disruption, Barrick Gold reassured minimal impact on operations and extended support to government-led relief efforts.

However, logistical hurdles persist, with a collapsed bridge further impeding access to the disaster zone, prolonging the delivery of aid and rescue missions. The United Nations, echoing local concerns, warns of the looming threat of infectious diseases as decaying bodies and stagnant water pose significant health risks.

Serhan Aktoprak, chief of the UN migration agency's mission in Papua New Guinea, emphasized the urgent need for coordinated action, stressing the gravity of the situation as rescue efforts race against time to mitigate the escalating humanitarian crisis.

May 30, 2024 1:46 p.m. 494

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