On Monday 26 February, an earthquake of 7.5 magnitude at 9 km depth struck the Highlands region of Papua New Guinea, particularly Hela and Southern Highlands provinces. A series of strong aftershocks have since been reported across the Highlands, including a 6.7 magnitude quake on 7 March. On 1 March, PNG Prime Minister O'Neill announced a State of Emergency in Hela, Southern Highlands, Western and Enga Provinces. PNG police report at least 125 people have been killed by the earthquake and aftershocks.
Australia's humanitarian assistance
Following a request from the PNG Government, Australia is providing a $5 million assistance package to support the PNG Government's relief efforts. This includes:
- Up to $3 million for Australian and PNG non-government organisations that are active in the highlands region. They will help support recovery in sectors such as agriculture, health and protection.
- Up to $1 million to support vulnerable women and children in the earthquake-affected areas, in partnership with UN Women, the UN Population Fund, International Planned Parenthood Federation and UNICEF.
- Up to $400,000-worth of electrical transformers to re-establish reliable power supplies in Hela and Southern Highlands Provinces, which will benefit businesses, health clinics, schools and family homes.
- Up to $200,000-worth of Australian Government humanitarian supplies
- The deployment of an Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT), which is working with PNG authorities to identify and address health needs.
Australia's Defence Force support
The Australian Defence Force has played a significant role supporting the PNG Defence Force and PNG authorities, which are leading response activities. Australia has deployed an RAAF C-130J, three CH47F Chinook helicopters and ADF personnel to help distribute supplies to the affected region. Humanitarian activities include:
- 30 flights by the C-130J to transport Australian and partner medical and humanitarian supplies to warehouses in the Southern Highlands and Western Highlands.
- 55 hours of flight time by the Chinooks to deliver supplies from the warehouses to affected villages.
- Aerial surveillance and mapping of damage to arterial roads.
- Overall, over 300 of humanitarian supplies have been transported by the ADF.
Australia is supporting the deployment of specialists to assist with humanitarian activities and respond to emerging needs. This includes:
- Two Australian-funded logistics specialists to assist with the distribution of relief supplies.
- Three humanitarian specialists to help ensure supplies reach vulnerable communities.
- An Australian-funded specialist is working in the PNG National Disaster Centre to assist with information management and coordination.
Travel advice and consular assistance
The travel advice for Papua New Guinea on smartraveller.gov.au was reissued on 26 February to alert Australians to the earthquake and reports of damage to infrastructure and services. Australians in affected areas should follow the instructions of local authorities.
For travel advice updates, follow @Smartraveller on Twitter.
Follow @AusHumanitarian on Twitter for more information about Australia's humanitarian response.