22 Feb 2019

Flooding blocks roads and washes out villages in East New Britain

2:27 pm on 22 February 2019

Flash flooding in recent days has cut off many roads and washed out a number of villages in Papua New Guinea's East New Britain province.

Flooding in East New Britain

Photo: Facebook/ Only in East New Britain

New Guinea Islands provinces are taking stock of damage from several days of heavy rains and severe winds linked to Cyclone Oma.

Among the worst hit was East New Britain where two deaths were reported.

The chairman of its disaster committee, Wilson Matava, said all provincial schools are closed while most roads remain blocked.

He said flooding was particularly severe for the Rabaul villages of Malaguna and Rapolo.

"About 60 families, all their houses have been completely washed out into the sea by flash floods. There is an evacuation centre that we have established within the Catholic Mission in the same village. It's on higher ground. That is a temporary evacuation centre.

"We have provided some relief supplies for almost two hundred people."

Mr Matava said as well as providing immediate relief for those affected such as water and food, the East New britain government has requested disaster relief funding from the national government.

As the provincial administration and its disaster committee continues to make damage assessments, the need to clear roads remained a priority.

"Most of the river banks have burst," the chairman said, adding that it had caused large amounts of debris to block roads including the main routes between Kokopo and Rabaul and Kerevat.

He said a single lane had now been cleared on the important road between Kokopo and Rabaul.

"[But] not for our major trucking that carts most of our cargo from our wharf (Rabaul) to the two towns of Kerevat and Kokopo."

With more heavy rain and strong winds forecast for the coming days, Mr Matava said people have been advised to stay at home and not to go out to sea in small boats.

"Our national weather service is continuously giving updates, and we continue to inform our people in the province - at this time of school suspension - all our children must stay home under the parents' protection," he explained.

Mr Matava said it was hoped that schools would reopen next week.