Several days after a 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck Papua New Guinea on Feb. 26, powerful aftershocks continue to plague the island nation.

The New York Times reports that over 100 people are confirmed dead and many more injured. Aftershocks as powerful as 6.7 magnitudes continued to shake the region as late as March 6.

An estimated 10,000 households have been affected by a damaging earthquake which has caused devastation in the Hela and Southern Highlands provinces of central Papua New Guinea. The 7.5-magnitude quake has claimed dozens of lives and injured hundreds more. Roads and airstrips have been severely affected, making travel in and around the remote region even more difficult than usual. Communications are hampered further by disruption to the power and telephone networks.

Col. Kelvin Alley, the territorial commander of The Salvation Army in Papua New Guinea, reported that Salvation Army resources in the area began responding immediately. The Salvation Army does not have facilities in the hardest-hit areas, but has partnered with local churches to assist relief efforts.

“Our country is stunned by the extent of the devastation which is unparalleled in the history of this country,” Alley reported. “It is difficult to see this ever returning to normal again. People have flocked from their houses, living in large groups for security, which is now mostly under tarps living.”

The Salvation Army is the emergency relief response partner of ExxonMobil, which has a gas conditioning plant in the affected area. Plans are being developed to provide emergency relief assistance to 500 households in the immediate vicinity of ExxonMobil’s site in Hides. The initial proposal is for three teams of eight trained responders to distribute emergency food and other essential household items, as part of a coordinated response in conjunction with the local authorities, local churches and other non-governmental organizations. Health professionals will be included among the response teams. ExxonMobil is assisting with transport to the remote communities, and with other logistical arrangements. 

Subject to a detailed needs assessment, a second phase of response would extend the relief efforts to more homes in the Hides and Gobe corridor – an extremely rugged and remote part of the country, in which access is difficult.

The Salvation Army’s work in Papua New Guinea includes the training and deployment of community health workers, literacy programs and provision of education to more than 4,000 children. The Salvation Army also offers support services to people who leave their traditional rural communities in search of employment in the larger towns and cities.

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