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Major disaster feared as rains continue

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 3, 2008) - Lae City is bracing for a major disaster at any time now.

A village is already under water and three others are being divided by the flooding Markham River as incessant rain batters the city and surrounding areas.

Markham, one of the country’s biggest rivers, Busu, Yalu, and Bumbu rivers, all emptying into the Huon Gulf, are flooding and are threatening this industrial city and nearby villages, gardens and lives.

The flooding Yalu River is eating into one side of the low bridge on the Highlands Highway.

The Bumbu River flowing through the city, from one end at Taraka in the north and emptying into the sea at Yanga village is flooding and the waters are threatening to burst their banks.

Many banana patches along the banks are already under water while the Busu -- ranked in the top five as one of the fastest flooding rivers in the world -- is also bursting its banks as well. It empties into the sea at Yanga village and along the way there are river people who have gardens and homes along the banks on both sides.

The Markham River has already diverted from its original course and is cutting its way into the Labu villages, taking away homes and leaving about 16 people homeless.

The river is threatening to take more houses and the villagers are calling on the Government, through the National Disaster and Emergency Service, for immediate help to divert the river back to its previous course.

"Something will give in if this rain continues. The flood waters will burst their banks tonight or tomorrow.

"Everyone that lives along the banks or in the path of previous floods should move now, move to higher grounds. Those that have gardens there should be careful," director of Morobe Disaster Service, Roy Kamen, said yesterday as he and his men maintained surveillance over the city and nearby villages.

September is the dry month and it should run into November when the rain season starts, however for nearly the whole of August it has rained and is still raining. The National Weather Service (NWS) yesterday informed the Post-Courier that the rain being experienced would continue into November.

"This is because of the ice cover over Australia. The cold air blowing into the Solomon Sea from Australia is condensing over the Solomon Sea and so we are having the rain," Jimmy Gamoga, the manager of the Warning Centre of the NWS in Port Moresby said. Mr. Kamen warned that people living near those rivers must take extra precautions as anything could happen. The visit by Post-Courier to some of those rivers confirmed the threat to the city by the four big rivers.

The worst affected areas are Markham villages along the Highlands Highway, Labu villagers and settlers at Situm.

"Coastal villagers must also take precaution and do not overload passengers on the outboard motor boats," Kamen warned.

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