Following Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s orders for the PNGDF to initiate immediate response to the earthquake yesterday, PNGDF Chief of Staff, Colonel Raymond Numa, has confirmed the presence of troops on ground.
Col Numa said PNGDF personnel are stationed exclusively in Southern Highlands, Enga and Hela provinces, while the headquarters is based in Mt Hagen, Western Highlands Province.
“We’ve also got engineers working on mending the roads,” he stated.
Additionally, troops at the Singarok barracks in Jiwaka Province will be called to assist when details of assistance have been finalised.
“They are ready to carry on with the additional tasks in providing assistance to the people in the highlands,” Col Numa said.
“PNGDF has stepped up its activities, operations and preparations to support the disaster operations up in the highlands.”
PNGDF has also engaged two of its helicopters, which left this morning with members of the national disaster and additional troops to the highlands.
Part of the activities that will be carried out tomorrow is an aerial surveillance to assess damaged areas in the region so supporting troops can be sent in to help where possible.
Col. Numa also confirmed that medical teams are on standby and are ready to be deployed as well.
Furthermore, the PNGDF has requested the assistance of its counterpart, the Australian Defence Force, for its C-130 Hercules; a combat airlift fleet that performs the tactical portion of the airlift mission and is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips. It is the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas.
The C-130 is set to arrive by this afternoon in the country to assist with a wider aerial surveillance in the highlands, including parts of the Momase region.
“At this stage, the PNGDF is at the reconnaissance phase and as soon as details are finalised, we will start deployment,” adds Col. Numa.
“By tomorrow we should have a clear picture of what we need to do in the next couple of days.”
The PNG Defence Force has a Constitutional obligation to provide support to provincial governments and the National Disaster Centre to assess the damage and play a significant part in the response.