Adventists among first to respond to PNG earthquake

Loading supplies into the AAS plane.

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Seventh-day Adventists were among the first to respond after a powerful earthquake devastated villages in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The 7.5 magnitude quake struck the Southern Highlands region of PNG on February 26, with 122 reported deaths. Since then there has been a series of at least 70 aftershocks.

An initial report from oil and gas company ExxonMobil listed the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) as part of the initial assessment team that made one of the first visits to the area.

“Anticipating immediate resource needs, the team delivered essentials, including shelter equipment, water and sanitation support to the Para Health Clinic, which serves the Para, Tokaju and Hides areas,” a media release from the company stated.

The damage as seen from the air.

Adventist Aviation Services (AAS) in Goroka also posted an update to their Facebook page, outlining the details of their involvement in providing aid.

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Papua New Guinea, through its flying program, Adventist Aviation Services PNG, has had the incredible opportunity to be a first responder . . . to the people of PNG most devastated by the earthquake,” the March 6 post said.

“On Thursday, as it became apparent that relief from other sources would not be available for some time, and as our aircraft and crew became available for duty, AAS CEO Captain Jeff Downs began coordinating with Mission Aviation Fellowship International to clearly identify the rural communities most affected by the earthquake.

Captain Jeff Downs and flight coordinator Samson Nopi.

“By Friday morning, Captain Downs and AAS flight coordinator Samson Nopi were able to purchase more than 13,000 Kina worth of rice, tinned fish and water and, over Friday and Saturday, delivered 850kg of food and water to villages in need.”

In the impacted area—one of the most remote locations in PNG—up to 80 per cent of the houses have been destroyed, along with roads and other infrastructure.

A report prepared by ADRA PNG emergency coordinator Willie Kunsei said about 143,000 people have been identified as needing urgent humanitarian assistance.

“The people requiring urgent assistance also face the immediate risk of displacement and will have lost most of their assets with short- and long-term consequences to their lives and livelihoods,” noted Mr Kunsei.

Food is scarce, with 64,000 people at risk of extreme food insecurity. Most gardens were destroyed by the landslides and, in some cases, totally covered by landslides.

As aftershocks continue to hit the Highlands, the PNG Government is relying on foreign aid to get relief to the affected areas. ADRA and AAS in PNG will continue monitoring the situation, and working with the Government and other agencies to provide support to affected villages.

“Please, Church family around the world, pray for your Seventh-day Adventist friends and the people of the Papua New Guinea Highlands,” said the communication team from the Western Highlands Mission.

Delivering food to villages in need.

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