Medevac of patients following earthquake in PNG on Monday 26th Feb 2018 

Date of flight: 1st March 2018

Personal account by Nawi Mabo, MAF’s Ground Operations Training Co-ordinator, PNG

1000x1000 2018 03 01 P2 MAH Earthquake Medevac.MGlass.DSC08636

Today, I had the chance to see first-hand the devastation caused by the recent earthquake when returning to Hagen from Kiunga and stopping at Huya and Bosavi to pick up people who were injured from the earthquake. Among them was the lady who was the sole survivor of a group of 11 people who were buried in a landslide while trying to get to Komo for marketing. Another woman whom we also picked up was injured from falling rocks caused by an aftershock a day after the major earthquake. She had wounds on her head and other parts of the body. A little boy was also picked up. He had one eye injured as a result of being hit by debris falling from the hill side. There were a number of people who hurt themselves while running out of houses and huts in the dark during the major tremor. The health worker at Bosavi said there were no medicines to treat people and expressed sadness of doing nothing much during this critical time.

When talking to the people, they said no one has since left the villages and gone to their gardens out of fear of getting injured or killed should another tremor strike again. And there are tremors between 20 – 30 minutes intervals till now that adds to this fear. Food gardens especially on ridges were reported destroyed. This was confirmed from the air. Rivers and creeks turned muddy and were blocked with fallen trees and rocks causing water to build up upstream then burst open and send a flood of fast travelling debris downstream wiping away food gardens. From the air, most cliffs around Huya had evidence of landslides. There surely is much more damage than we would guess. A more comprehensive assessment of the affected area is needed!

The appreciation to MAF for being there at this critical time of need was overwhelming, especially at Huya where we dropped 240 kilograms of food supplies courtesy of Sally Lloyd. Some people shed tears, I joined them! I have worked 12 years with MAF but have not seen this level of gratitude by people who express thankfulness when help comes at their greatest hour of need.

As we prepared to leave the people, Steve Eatwell asked me to pray with the people. I did, encouraging them we (MAF), we will splash the stories and pictures of the devastation the earthquake caused and work to get help coming their way. We encouraged them that people everywhere were praying for them and other areas affected by the earthquake. The community leader on behalf of his people thanked MAF for being there all this time, more so at this time when the need for help is even greater.

Personal account by pilot Steven Eatwell

Thanks to Nawi for his help today, before we left we were both phoning different people and contacting people at Huya to assess the airstrip condition as a previous survey flight thought there could be possible cracks on the airstrip. I did a few inspection runs across and down the strip and we decided it was safe to land as the cracks we noticed were on the sides, way off centerline, which confirmed reports from out MAF agent at Huya. As Nawi has said the people were so grateful for the plane to have come, not only for the patients and the unexpected food supplies but I felt that they also wanted to share their sorrow and their stories with anyone who could possibly help them.

The ladies sitting close by to the boxes of food could not keep back and after a short while crawled up the bank and hugged the boxes. It was great to be able to be there and not rush but listen to the people and to pray with them. I felt that the few boxes we took were received gratefully but were not much compared to the many people there. I have also visited other strips like Suabi, Yahebe, Fuma and others who have told me about dead fish and one croc floating down stream. I saw this for myself at Yahebi and the people informed me that there was a film on the river similar to how oil sits on water as well as a smell. They are not sure if there are still fish in the river as it is two dirty, with debris and mud, to know.

Personal account by Mandy Glass once the flight landed in Mount Hagen

 When in Hagen, we gave the patients medevac bags. We just had enough to bless the women. Martha instantly clothed the woman on the stretcher with a shirt to cover her body. Martha is a real blessing when it comes to care for the medevac patients, talking gently to them and explaining things and just encouraging them!

As we were all waiting for the ambulance to arrive, many of us gathered around the trolley with the severely injured woman, listening to the woman with the small child with the eye infection/injury as she was briefly telling the heart breaking story about this woman’s experience and the impact of the earthquake on the people's life in this remote places. We (base staff and security people…) were very touched and shaken and then we gathered to pray for these people and their communities.

As the ambulance wasn’t able to carry all patients we took the MAF base bus too. So Nobi joined the ambulance, and Martha and Nawi came with me in the bus. We had the two men from Bosavi on board and the woman with the baby (if I got it right she was just the care person to one of the men).

At the hospital it was a bit chaotic as the ambulance driver was done with his job after having the woman transferred to the hospital stretcher and gave us instructions where to go next. But we insisted to have nurses taking care of the people. We then figured out that the emergency ward was right behind us and eventually a guard took the stretcher.

Anyway, the emergency staff were very helpful and immediately took care of the severely injured woman, who was also pregnant.

The hospital is fairly crowded and at its limits to take patients for in-house treatment. According to the emergency staff they might discharge some of the people sooner rather than later. This is challenging as these people don’t have wantoks they could ask for help and a place to stay.

I provded them all with a health booklet and then we went to get some fresh fruit at the market as well as a cup, plate and spoon for them all and each a blanket. We just had a youth group doing a little fundraiser for medevac patients to bless them with some essentials!

From what I understood at the hospital the people will be referred to different wards after they’ve been seen by the emergency staff. I left them all with MAF’s phone number to call if we have to take them back to their villages.

Patient details

Three adults and a child from two airstrips were on the medevac flight. A guardian from each strip was brought out as well to assist them.

  • The lady by the name Nagei Waruka from Huya was covered by the landslide that took place shortly after the earthquake in early hours of Monday. She is in her early 40s. Fortunately she survived but her legs, back and arms were severely damaged. She is only lying down and is being assisted to move. She lost all her family in the landslide.   She is pregnant and in critical condition. This is the lady the helicopter tried to assist on the 28th However, the men in the village determined to get her help due to her critical condition, built a stretcher and carried her across the river and hiked her to the airstrip where they knew MAF would come to pick her up. This hike normally takes 2 hours under good condition. She arrived last night. Unfortunately they had not received word, as we had hoped, that the helicopter was going yesterday and left before it got there. They were too far away to come back at that point.
  • The other patient, Aube Kumaruma (mother) and child Waruka Kumaruma. Mother is in her early 30s and child is about 3years old. The two were scared so the mother decided to take a walk to the other village nearby, when a dry branch fell on them. She got three cuts to her head and the child’s right eye was injured by the branch and very swollen. The mother can’t talk at this time and is assisted when moving.
  • The young man named Bison Nickson in his early 20s from Bosavi had the house fall on him last Tuesday night, he survived but his chest and stomach were hurt and swollen. He has to be assisted when he walks.

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