Storm surge still a concern but support on track

Residents from around the Meni area in Wewak, East Sepik Province, watching the sea swells crashing against the Winjammer Beach Motel, which eventually collapsed

Warnings of further severe sea swells causing tidal surges, similar to those experienced in December 2008, have been issued in Papua New Guinea.

National Weather Service (NWS) acting director Simon Maiha said the warnings were targeted at the Momase and New Guinea Islands regions.

Maiha told IRIN that while the surges had subsided, coastal communities should maintain vigilance. He said indications were that additional tidal surges could be experienced in the areas submerged in December, which destroyed crops and infrastructure.

Maiha said the waters south of New Britain Island and around Guam had risen by more than 20cm.

Earlier reports from the National Disaster Centre (NDC) stated that late December through January were the months for spring or “king” tides in PNG.

“These tides would be in excess of 2.5m along the southern coast from the border of Indonesia and PNG to Milne Bay and the north coast and New Guinea Islands including Bougainville,” Maiha told IRIN.

Information on the extent of the December damage and the number of people affected was slow in reaching the NDC in Port Moresby, triggering a request by the government for a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team to strengthen the information management capacity of the NDC and re-assess the severity of the disaster.

A map of Papua New Guinea and surrounding countries.

Wikimedia Commons
A map of Papua New Guinea and surrounding countries.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Les premiers 'réfugiés' du changement climatique...
A map of Papua New Guinea and surrounding countries.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A map of Papua New Guinea and surrounding countries

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) representative in PNG, Vini Talai, the agency worked with the NDC and Inter-Agency Standing Committee Disaster Management Team during the sea swells disaster from 5 to 11 December 2008.

The four-member UNDAC team was in PNG from 17 to 25 December 2008.

“The more recent king tides of 7-14 January 2009 were only monitored by OCHA as the PNG government was on top of things by then,” Talai said. “Many of the NGOs were also still in the affected provinces at the time to help the provincial administrations with early warning messages.”

The OCHA situation report released by the UNDAC team on 31 December 2008 showed that 38,000 people were still affected by flooding as a result of early December sea swells; 2,000 houses were destroyed or damaged in Manus, East Sepik, New Ireland and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville; and safe drinking water and adequate storage tanks and containers, as well as food and sanitation assistance, were still priority concerns for the affected population.

Aid response

The government allocated K50 million (US$20.4 million), of which K20 million ($8.1 million) is earmarked for relief and the rest for recovery efforts. AusAID, New Zealand AID, USAID and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have supported response agencies with cash and in-kind contributions.

Other provinces still partially affected are West Sepik, Madang and Morobe. Drinking water, sanitation and food are priority needs for the affected population.

On the ground, the NDC, the lead agency, coordinated with Provincial Disaster Centres for relief response, with additional support from local and international humanitarian agencies.

The government did not request any international funding, nor did it think a humanitarian appeal was needed. However, AusAID provided cash/in-kind contributions worth AUS$500,000 (US$345,000); and the International Federation of the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund released CHF190,000 ($162,500) to support PNG Red Cross in delivering immediate assistance to 15,450 beneficiaries.

The government of Japan provided emergency relief goods worth PGK400,000 ($163,200); NZAid donated NZ$150,000 ($86,500) to the PNG Red Cross, facilitated by the New Zealand Red Cross; and USAID provided K140,000 ($50,000) to the PNG Red Cross.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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