Kokopo, Papua New Guinea, Jan 14, 2019 (AFP) - Weeks of heavy rains and flooding have killed at least nine people in Papua New Guinea, with authorities warning more bad weather and devastation could be on the way. Central Province Disaster Division Coordinator Tumai Ipo told AFP Monday they have received reports of at least nine deaths, with many more families left homeless or without access to safe drinking water.
Near the capital Port Moresby, there have been unconfirmed reports of children being washed away by floodwaters, while further down the coast, high winds generated by Cyclone Penny -- which hit northern Australia -- have destroyed homes. Rising rivers have left many bridges unusable, stranding travellers. The storms have lashed the country's southern coast since late December but have also caused problems in the north. Three people are missing after setting out from the mainland to Manus Island on a dinghy around Christmastime. The National Maritime Safety Authority conducted an aerial search on January 5, but failed to locate them.
Authorities have warned airlines and shipping vessels to take precautionary measures. Samuel Maiha, director of the National Weather Service, said the worst of the rain may have passed, but with Papua New Guinea now in the first months of the 2019 monsoon season, more could be on the way. "Even after this system is gone, we will still have another four months yet to expect more weather changes, including possible tropical storms and increasing risk of landslides," he told AFP.
Date: Tue, 8 Jan 2019 08:02:28 +0100
Sydney, Jan 8, 2019 (AFP) - One of Papua New Guinea's most active volcanoes has erupted, authorities said Tuesday, pummelling villages on a remote island with volcanic rock before subsiding. Manam island is a volcanic cone that towers out of the sea north of the Papua New Guinea mainland and has a history of eruptions, with major activity in November 2004 forcing the evacuation of some 9,000 people.
The volcano has erupted a number of times since then and spewed lava and ash last month. A series of tremors around Manam triggered a warning system on Monday and the volcano began erupting shortly after, the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory said. The eruption continued into early Tuesday, Ima Itikarai of the observatory told AFP. An observatory report said there were "small ongoing eruptions" from the main crater early Tuesday.
Lava was channelled into a nearby valley and "intermittent bursts" of volcanic rock falling on villages, adding to a heightened risk of mudflows, it added. The level of sesmic activity declined later in the day after jumping early Tuesday, the agency said. But it warned that Manam was "still dynamic and volatile and therefore the potential for further eruptive activity in the future is still high".
Papua New Guinea has many volcanoes, particularly on its offshore islands, as the country lies at the junction of two tectonic plates. Some islanders who were evacuated from Manam 15 years ago and resettled elsewhere on Papua New Guinea recently complained they were still struggling with their new lives, The National newspaper reported.
Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2018 05:47:33 +0100 By Andrew BEATTY
Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea, Dec 3, 2018 (AFP) - Decades after polio was eradicated from Papua New Guinea, the crippling and sometimes deadly disease has returned, leaving doctors scrambling to revive long-lapsed vaccination programmes. Until earlier this year, the polio virus was endemic in only three countries in the world: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. But a relatively rare strain is now spreading throughout rugged, jungle-cloaked Papua New Guinea, one of the world's poorest countries. Since the first case was detected in April -- paralysing a six-year-old boy named Gafo near the northern coast -- polio has infected dozens more nationwide, prompting the government to declare a national emergency.
Papua New Guinea, which today has a population of around eight million people, thought it had eradicated the wild variant of the virus in 1996, and was certified polio-free in 2000. But since then, experts say, lapsed vaccination programmes and poor sanitation have left an open invitation for the prehistoric disease to return. "It's not a sudden surprise," said Monjur Hossain, a UNICEF expert living in Port Moresby. "The government knew about it," he told AFP. "We all knew about it."
In a cruel twist, the virus afflicting Papua New Guineans today -- clinically known as VDPV1 -- started life as a vaccine. The much-weakened version of the polio virus was first ingested as an oral vaccine, before spreading throughout the community via feces. Because of low-levels of immunisation, the harmless attenuated virus continued to circulate person-to-person for a long period of time, allowing it to mutate into a more virulent strain.
Similar localised outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio have been previously detected in the Horn of Africa, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Still, healthcare workers are adamant that the benefits of vaccination programmes massively outweigh the risk of vaccine-derived polio. World Health Organization experts estimate well over 10 million cases of polio have been averted worldwide since widespread vaccination began two decades ago, a 99 percent reduction. But even with modern treatment, an estimated one in 100 cases of polio results in irreversible paralysis. A fraction of those who are paralysed die.
- 'Very expensive, very tough' - Doctors in Papua New Guinea are trying to respond to the crisis by providing countrywide immunisation -- with at least three oral doses for each child. Hundreds of thousands have already been vaccinated. Despite government and international support, the country's lack of roads and unforgiving terrain -- particularly in the central highlands -- have made that task difficult. Many villages can only be reached by air, or by day-long river trips.
Throw into the mix tribal violence, malnutrition, drought, multiple outbreaks of other diseases like measles and the aftermath of a massive February earthquake and things become more difficult still. "It's really challenging in terms of access, in terms of logistics," said Hossain. "It's very expensive and very tough." One answer has been to create mobile clinics that travel to villages far from populous areas like Mount Hagen -- which itself has very few paved roads. At one such clinic near Mount Hagen's rough-and-tumble market, health worker Margaret Akima is virtually dragging mothers and their children into her barebones trailer.
In the first few days after setting up, she administered more than 100 doses of polio vaccine a day. By the final day of the two week stint, it is down to around 50. From amid the throngs of bored men -- fighting, shouting and playing darts -- Akima picks out 37-year-old Maria Ponde. She has travelled to Mount Hagen with her six-year-old daughter Warapnong to buy a spade head. "I was not expecting her to get vaccinated," Ponde said as the dose was administered to her daughter. Warapnong has already missed a few courses of the vaccine and only received this one by fluke, underscoring how scattershot the response still is.
Southern Highlands has reported the country's 19th polio case since June  and 3 cases are pending confirmation. The provincial health authority's emergency operation centre in Mendi confirmed the case through the Health Department on [Fri 26 Oct 2018]. One child has died.
Disease surveillance officer with the emergency operation centre Ken Siki said the victim was a 1-year-old male from Yaria village in the Lower Mendi LLG of Imbonggu who had a paralysed leg. He said the child missed out on polio emergency vaccination when tests were conducted after he was admitted to for treatment and samples were sent to Port Moresby. "We did our best to make sure all the children were vaccinated in the 2 rounds but this total negligence by parents has resulting in the child being affected," Siki said.
"The reported case from Southern Highlands now brings the total to 19 the number of polio victims in the country while 3 more suspected cases are still pending confirmation." He said there needed to be more awareness done in the 3rd round of vaccination to make sure those who had missed out in the 1st and 2nd rounds were vaccinated. It is now the duty of parents and guardians to ensure their children are vaccinated. [Byline: Peter Wari]
[Presumably this most recent confirmed case was associated with a cVDPV1 (circulating vaccine derived poliovirus type 1) and this will be reflected when the official report of this case is available. Unfortunately not all of the target population is reached during these vaccination campaigns, resulting in residual susceptible population.
A map showing the provinces of Papua New Guinea can be found at:
Sydney, Oct 10, 2018 (AFP) - A major 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Papua New Guinea's New Britain island on Thursday, briefly triggering a tsunami alert before authorities gave the all clear. The United States Geological Survey said the quake hit about 125 kilometres (80 miles) east of Kimbe at a depth of around 40km. There were a string of smaller tremors measuring up to 6.2 immediately before and after the main earthquake, which struck at 6:48am (2048 Wednesday GMT). The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially warned hazardous tsunami waves were possible in coastal areas 300km from the epicentre. It later revised its forecast saying: "Based on all available data the tsunami threat from this earthquake has now passed." A spokesman for PNG's National Disaster Management Office in Port Moresby said there were no immediate reports of damage from the quake, but these typically took several hours to reach the capital after a major shake.
Chris McKee, assistant director at PNG's Geophysical Observatory in Port Moresby, said the quake was probably less intense than initial reports suggested. "We believe the magnitude is high sixes, not 7.3 as some reports have suggested, and the depth is 50-70 kilometres (31-43 miles)," he told AFP. "Within those parameters and at that depth, we wouldn't expect a tsunami to be generated." McKee said attempts were being made to contact local agencies in New Britain to check whether the quake caused any damage. The USGS website said there was a "low likelihood of casualties and damage" from the quake. PNG sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates. The country is still recovering after a 7.5-magnitude quake hit its mountainous interior in February, killing at least 125 people, cutting off access to villages and knocking out power. Its remote terrain means it often takes several days for information about damage from quakes to reach officials and aid agencies.