by Scott Waide – EM TV News, Goroka
After two full days of disrupted traffic due to the collapse of the Bena Bridge in the Eastern Highlands, another road section collapsed last night, cutting off traffic for much of the day.
A section between Kainantu and Yonki collapsed overnight cutting off traffic until local villagers cleared part of the landslip to allow traffic to pass.
Meanwhile, a temporary bridge order from Mt. Hagen arrived today in Goroka; construction efforts to repair the damaged bridge began just after midday.
The first sign of hope for close to 2,000 people stranded along the Bena section of the Highlands Highway; a bailey bridge was transported last night by road from Mt. Hagen. A works crew worked non-stop to get the bridge here.
By 11am, the crew began moving the main parts of the bridge into position. Bailey’s are easy to construct bridges that can be erected within a matter of hours, or days for larger bridges.
The Eastern Highlands Provincial Works Manager, John Posagu, expects the bridge to be ready by Friday.
“Everything is proceeding according to plan. We should have the bridge ready by Friday at the latest,” he said.
Police and members of the PNGDF Engineering Battalion in Lae have been deployed to the bridge to maintain security. Security is one the main concerns for provincial authorities as the crowd continues to build.
The damage bill for the Eastern Highlands alone, according to the works department, could reach K15 million. The districts affected say they don’t have the money to replace the collapsed bridges.
“This is what nature has done,” said Kainantu MP, Johnson Tuke.
“The damage is above and beyond what the district can afford and it comes when the government is in a financial crisis.”
Pictures filmed yesterday on a helicopter in the Dunatina LLG show the extensive damage to roads, bridges and food gardens. People recovering from the drought are now hit again by floods and are unable to plant crops.