Duke of York families displaced after major PNG quake

2:25 pm on 20 May 2019

Authorities in Papua New Guinea's Islands region are still assessing damage from last week's major earthquake which has displaced at least 10o people on a small island.

Damage from a 7.5 magnitude earthquake on 14 May 2019 in Namatanai district, New Ireland province PNG.

Damage from a 7.5 magnitude earthquake on 14 May 2019 in Namatanai district, New Ireland province PNG. Photo: Namatanai MP Office

The magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck 10 kilometres deep in St George's Channel between East New Britain and New Ireland provinces.

Efforts to assess damage have been hampered by the impacts of recent heavy rain in the region which caused intermittent flash flooding and landslides since the start of the year.

However, local authorities said some of the most significant damage from the quake was on Duke of York Island very close to the quake's epicentre in St George's Channel.

Many houses and structures are understood to have sustained damage on islands in the Duke of York group. Several homes collapsed.

More than 100 people in the group have been displaced.

"They lost all their houses," the East New Britain Governor Nakikus Konga explained, adding that fuller damage assessment reports were still pending.

"And what we're doing now, because of the limited funding, my provincial government is spending 50-thousand kina (around US$13-thousand) just to support them by tarpaulins, and food and water."

They displaced familes were being provided with temporary shelter, according to Provincial administrator Wilson Matava.

He said the East New Britain disaster office was also giving tarpaulins, food, water and mosquito nets to those affected.

Mr Matava indicated further assessments would be made in the coming days. New Ireland authorities are also yet to get full damage assessment reports.

However, it has been confirmed that the quake caused significant damage to structures in various villages in New Ireland's Namatanai district.

Mr Konga said that once the provincial disaster committee had carried out a fuller assessment, he expected there would be a need for extra funding.

However, the governor indicated frustration that his province was still waiting for funding needed in the wake of widespread flooding and landslides caused by heavy rains in February and March.

According to Mr Konga, the province had conducted assessments, established that US$2 million (7.8 million kina) was required for relief and rebuilding efforts, but that the national government had not directed the funds yet.

"We went in with a proper submission. Then we took it over to the national government," he explained.

"I as the governor of the province had a follow-up with the prime minister. But still today we have not had any funding. It's not very helpful for us, because two months is a long time to wait."

Damage from the PNG quake

Photo: Namatanai MP Office