Featured Highlands News Papua New Guinea

Families Mourn as Rescue Efforts Begin

While the multi-billion dollar oil and gas industry in Papua New Guinea count their financial losses and inform their shareholders overseas, one family from Magarima in the Southern Highlands is mourning the devastating loss of their last born son and his young family.

Twenty-one-year-old Jack Wapol Mawe had already run out of the house he and is family had been sleeping in that night. But then when he went back into the small building to pull out his wife, Regina and baby Mawit, the landslip buried them in the house.

“We found him frozen in motion… his hands reaching out to his young wife and first born son when they were all buried,” said Fr. Pius Hal the Catholic priest at the Mendi Diocese and an uncle to Jack Mawe.

Yesterday, doctors at the Mendi Hospital completed the post mortem and today, the family was taken by road to Magarima where they are from.

“I had not seen him for a long while. I think he was feeling a bit shy of talking to me because he had married quite early.

They had come from Hagen. It was the first time I had seen him in many years. They night he was gone.”

At the site of the landslip in the center of Mendi town behind the local CLC church, a small circle of rocks with a short wooden stake in the middle marks the place of death.

“They’re gone,” says a relative. “We’re looking after the place.”

Much of the house is still buried. The hauskrai is deserted. Three young lives were cut short just as they begun their journey together as a family.

In distant Komo, several hours from Mendi town, the roads are cut off. From the air, it looks like it’s been cut to shreds by giant claws that ripped the ground open.

An Indian priest who travelled in from Tari today, said his parishioners told him at least 14 people have died. Some of the areas are too far to reach and too difficult without road access.

Help is coming, the government says. A state of emergency has been declared and K450 million allocated. The Australian Government, MAF and Oil Search are on the ground in the three provinces but it will take weeks before everyone who needs it receives it.

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