World Vision International
Blog • Sunday, March 11th 2018

Arthur's story: when 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit Papua New Guinea

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An area in Hela Province, Papua New Guinea, showing landslips after the earthquake

Arthur Maling works as the mSupply (Medical Supplies) ICT Officer for World Vision Papua New Guinea and was in Hela Province together with colleague Megan Gaure (read Megan's account here) when the 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck last week. Both were on official duty travel, working with the Hela Provincial Hospital and were supposed to be in in the province for three weeks. Unfortunately, their work and stay was cut short when the 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck in the early hours of Monday morning, 26th February, and both had to be evacuated out of Hela. It was a traumatic experience for both, one they will remember for a very long time. This is Arthur's account of his experience.

 

By Arthur Maling, World Vision PNG mSupply ICT Officer

It was a first of its kind experience for me. I never experienced such a disaster before and I was traumatised after the earthquake which hit us in the early hours on Monday morning of February 26.

Everyone, including the local people, didn’t know what to do. The impact of the earthquake was devastating, and affected the lives of everyone, including the children.

It was around 3o’clock in the early hours of the morning and the earthquake shook for a few minutes. It was not small. We could feel the building move. The hotel building we were staying shook and we could not run out or do anything, so we just slept on the bed or on the floor. After the tremor, we ran out from the room to the ground. The ground kept shaking, continuing after every few minutes. 

PNG 7.5 earthquake

The two-story hotel that Arthur and his colleague stayed at. There were cracks on the hotel grounds. (Photo: Arthur Maling/ World Vision PNG)

I was thinking the building was going to collapse and I’m going to die. That’s what I thought. But God has a plan for us, so the two-storey building which was made of steel did not collapse. The building next to the hotel almost collapsed. The ground cracked and it nearly fell. It was a feeling I can still remember.

We were shaking. We saw the cracks on the ground and we could not say anything. We were all close together and stood far from the buildings. We were just watching the road and waited until 6 o’clock in the morning. There were about five to six of us from the hotel. There were also hotel staff who came out and were with us.

There were cracks on the road. (Photo: Arthur Maling/World Vision PNG)

The footpath was cracked, the filled-up soil where the other building was almost collapsed. We could see the cracks in between the bricks where the building was and on the ground as well. There was a hole in the soil which was patched later on in the morning. Water tanks were falling off because the cement base holding them up cracked when the earthquake occurred.

There were falling fences along the road. (Photo: Arthur Maling/World Vision PNG)

We went to the hospital from the hotel. There were also cracks on the road and vehicles could not move around. The airport was split in half, cracked. That’s when we learnt that there were no flights, all flights were cancelled.  People were traumatised. They were everywhere helping others mend broken fences or attending to their homes. As we passed by, we could see people fixing the buildings and attending to their houses. Some of the people were injured. The more injured ones were taken to the hospital.

 

At the hospital, medicine cabinets and shelves fell, throwing medicine all over the floor. (Photo: Arthur Maling/World Vision PNG)

Early in the morning we were at the hospital where we witnessed the body of a 7-year old boy brought to the hospital. His 5-year old younger brother was severly injured when a falling timber hit him on the head when their house collapsed.  They were assisted by villagers who took them to the hospital. Because of the devastating disaster, the hospital staff were not at work during the day. Everyone was busy with their own households, trying to find out if their families were allright. Some of them had no water and others were trying to attend to their houses, which were about to collapse. It was a first experience for them as well and people just did not know what to do.

Arial view showing landslip areas in as in effect of the earthquake. (Photo: Arthur Maling/World Vision PNG)

After the earthquake struck, communication links were down, there was no power, buildings were run by generators. Digicel’s tower was down, as it was badly affected so we could not get in touch with anyone. The only thing we could do was get in touch with the Oil Search team who had a satellite phone using the satellite phone from the hospital and they managed to assist us in communicating with the office here and we were able to get in touch with our families.

A happy Arthur being evacuated with others and en route to Moro, thanks to Oil Search

We stayed that day and with the help of Oil Search and DFAT, we were evacuated to Port Moresby the next day to Moro Airport and onward to Port Moresby. I was relieved when we arrived in Port Moresby. The earthquake and continuous tremors was unbearable and seeing people with injuries the whole day, feeling and thinking that we could have lost our lives was too much. It was great being back and I’m glad I was able to.

A very happy Arthur upon arrival in Port Moresby, thanks to the Australian Government support 

Seeing how it was in the earthquake area, I’m very happy that World Vision is responding to the effects of the earthquake, especially if we will be reaching especially those in the very remote areas and those who have lost their family.

Arthur back at work at his desk at the World Vision office in Port Moresby