Defence Minister updates on government responses on national disasters

Monday 25  March 2024

Minister of Defence and also Minister responsible for National Disaster Center (NDC) Hon. Dr Billy Joseph  confirmed today that the Government, with coordinated support from all stakeholder agencies and development partners, is responding appropriately to the natural disasters that has hit many parts of the country lately.

The National Disaster Center (NDC) is the national coordinating agency and is working with Provincial Governments and District Development Authorities (DDAs) as well as Dept of Works and Highways, the PNG Defence Force and other stakeholders including bilateral partners to coordinate and respond promptly and appropriately.

Responding to King Tides and Heavy Flooding  the Minister confirmed that about ten provinces are getting the necessary assistance from the National Disaster Center, including Goroka, Eastern Highlands,  which was not included in the initial report provided to his office.

The PNGDF elements are working very closely with the Simbu Provincial Government and Gumine DDA and their respective leaderships as Simbu was one of the worst affected provinces.

In further updates, Minister Joseph said seven people went  missing off the Coast of New Ireland Province, where  nine (9) people boarded a banana boat at Kavieng for Emirau Island but did not make it due to adverse weather conditions when the boat capsized.

He said two of the young men swam all the way to the island to look for help while seven others  made a makeshift raft and floated awaiting assistance.

“As of today, seven people are still missing and our search is still active; if we don’t find them after 72 hours, we will declare them lost and the search will be discontinued” Minister Joseph said.

The Australian Defence Force has provided a C27 aircraft to conduct low aerial surveillance of the subject areas. And a PNGDF Navy Patrol Boat has also been deployed to the area but no sightings have been reported.

The Search & Rescue operations are being coordinated by the National Maritime Safety Authority with oversight provided by the PNG Defence Force.

Meanwhile, the NDC is working closely with the leaders of East Sepik including the Provincial Government to ensure much needed help reach the  affected people that need it.

 An emergency allocation of K200,000.00 has been made available for food, water, shelter and medicines and so forth,  as seen appropriate by the Provincial Disaster Committee.

“It’s at their disposal. A commercial helicopter is now in Wewak to assist in the relief operations and the PNDF military helicopter will join shortly.

“We are also mobilising support from our bilateral partners to assist but the challenge is now for the Provincial Disaster Center to provide reports to NDC so we define and coordinate what kind of emergency assistance is required”, Minister Joseph said.

Minister Joseph further admonishes Papua New Guineans to take precautions and not take risks especially at sea as the country’s emergency services are stretched and rescue efforts my not be forthcoming in a timely manner.

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