Important message from John and Gweni Hetzel
serving in Papua New Guinea with Wycliffe Associates
Some time ago, when I (Gweni) was still single, I sent out a PNG Perspective about the rainfall we have in this tropical country.
I compared Seattle, Washington's 34 inches of rain a year to the 79 – 197 inches we have in the highlands where we live.
Normally the amount of rainfall is a blessing to this country. The rain, combined with the year round temperate weather, makes this place a kind of "garden of Eden" for growing food crops and decorative plants.
However, I think some of you have been hearing about the current tragedy that has hit Oro Province.
Two weeks ago cylconic rain (Cyclone Guba) hit the south eastern coast of PNG for five days, and caused flash floods resulting in terrible destruction.
Unlike the US, we do not hear local news on radio or see it on TV, so all the reports seem quite surreal to us up here in the mountains, but what brings it home are the photos captured by some of our mission helicopter pilots as they have flown down to the province to pull a number of translation teams out of their villages.
Also, our very dear friends, Marisa McHenry and Jo Frampton, live and work with a very special group of people in that area.
They have heard (though nothing has yet been verified) that their village of Uiaku has been hit hard, and 40+ houses are destroyed due to all the flooding. They have also heard that a village further inland from theirs is completely gone. They are terribly anxious for news of their village "family," including the men who work so faithfully with them, year after year, on translating the New Testament.
What we know so far about the flooding (though news is sometimes gathered through rumour, so numbers of dead, etc. are not completely certain):
- The entire province has been hit by severe storms which have flooded rivers, washed away bridges and roadways and demolished whole villages.
- Up to 28 bridges and culverts or 95 per cent of the roads and bridges throughout the province had been washed away, crippling the province.
- Relatives continue to search for their loved ones while dead bodies were being pulled out of subsiding rivers.
- Bodies are being buried in mass graves along coastal areas in Oro Province as villagers return home to find more bodies as floodwaters and high seas subside.
- The death toll from floods and high seas is expected to hit 250 as more people are expected to die from starvation and diseases.
- Reports reaching Popondetta say starving villagers are diving underwater where they believe their gardens exist to pull out vegetables to eat.
- The thousands of people affected by the flash floods in the province are surviving on coconuts, banana, other edible plants and rain water. However 10 people have died from starvation in Ope in the north coast area in Oro Province.
- Relief efforts by the National Government, after declaring a State of Emergency in the province are slowly trickling in.
- Australia , New Zealand and the United States have separately pledged close to K3 million (USD$1 million) in funding and humanitarian assistance.
- So far relief efforts have included Two Islands Aviation helicopters delivering relief supplies to hard hit villages, three Australian Army Caribou aircraft flying in with supplies Friday, and a barge carrying foreign mission relief supplies sailing into Gona on Friday.
Please join us for praying for the people of Oro Province as they come through this terrible tragedy.