by Scot Waide – EM TV News, Lae
Traffic along the Highlands highway has come to a standstill after flood waters destroyed part of the Bena bridge outside of Goroka Last night.
More than 200 vehicles from Lae, Madang and the upper reaches of highlands have been stranded since the early hours of this morning. Pedestrian traffic has taken the place of vehicles as people work around the obstacle of the broken bridge.
Yesterday, vehicles could pass. Early this morning, the section that held up under strain of floodwaters 12 hours ago, collapsed.
The Provincial Works Department has ordered a replacement bridge from Mt. Hagen. But it could take a day before the bridge arrives in Goroka for repairs.
“Repairing this bridge and training the river could cost up to K2.5 million,” said Works Manager, John Posagu.
The Bena bridge is just one of several that have suffered serious damage in the wake of floods marking the end of an 8-month drought.
Yesterday, The Henganofi MP, Robert Atiyafa, visitied the Dunatina Local Level government area where five permanent metal bridges have been washed away two nights ago.
The damage in Henganofi alone will cost the district up to 5 million kina for repairs. It is money the district doesn’t have.
“I don’t know what we will do at this time. The district simply doesn’t have the money to replace these bridges.
“I am making an appeal to the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, for urgent assistance. “
In Dunatina, More than 30,000 people are stranded in the rural local level government area. At least one school is reported to have been destroyed by flooding.
For the Bena bridge alone, the repairs and the transportation of a baily bridge from Mt. Hagen could cost the province up to 2 million kina. The destruction has come at a time when the government is tightening spending in all areas of operation.
In Madang Province, several bridges have washed away. In the Oro province, the provincial government needs several millions to repair and replace bridges destroyed last week during flash floods.
This is an emerging crisis that could spell disaster for the whole PNG economy.