Friday, January 15, 2010
What a week that was!
Locally as well as internationally, it has all been shocking, tragic and horrific week. In fact no expletives would do justice to what has befallen us here and one other nation on earth.
Haiti, known as a poor nation by world standards, was struck by a massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Port-au-prince, the capital of this Caribbean nation was worst hit.
According to the Associated Press, dazed survivors wandered past dead bodies in rubble-strewn streets on Wednesday, crying for loved ones, and rescuers searched collapsed buildings as officials feared the death toll from Haiti's devastating earthquake could reach into the tens of thousands.
The first cargo planes with food, water, medical supplies, shelter and sniffer dogs headed to the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation a day after the magnitude-7 quake flattened much of the capital of 2 million people.
Tuesday's earthquake brought down buildings great and small - from shacks in shantytowns to President Rene Preval's gleaming white National Palace, where a dome tilted ominously above the manicured grounds.
Hospitals, schools and the main prison collapsed. The capital's Roman Catholic archbishop was killed when his office and the main cathedral fell. The head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission was missing in the ruins of the organization's multistory headquarters.
Bodies were everywhere in Port-au-Prince: those of tiny children adjacent to schools, women in the rubble-strewn streets with stunned expressions frozen on their faces, men hidden beneath plastic tarps and cotton sheets.
Haiti's leaders struggled to comprehend the extent of the catastrophe - the worst earthquake to hit the country in 200 years - even as aftershocks still reverberated.
Haiti seems especially prone to catastrophe - from natural disasters like hurricanes, storms, floods and mudslides to crushing poverty, unstable governments, poor building standards and low literacy rates.
US President Barrack Obama described the disaster, its aftermath and frantic attempts to find survivors as heart-wrenching.
The planned visit by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to Port Moresby on Thursday was postponed. A short press release from the US Embassy in Port Moresby read: "Due to the serious tragedy in Haiti, the remainder of Secretary Clinton's Asia-Pacific visit is officially postponed. Secretary Clinton informed Prime Minister Somare directly about the postponement. They agreed to reschedule the visit to Papua New Guinea at a mutually agreeable time in the future."
Our daily newspapers reported that PNG's best known bank robber William Nanua Kapris escaped maximum security at Bomana. In the company of Kapris were some of the most wanted men who pose a serious threat to national security when on the run. While the Correctional Service management and police, along with National Security Advisory Committee are working around the clock on that security threat, families of the 40 plus passengers who perished in that horrific accident in the Markham Valley are trying to come to terms with the reality of the loss.
From reports in the dailies, we learn that families in the Western Highlands, Chimbu, Eastern Highlands and Morobe are in mourning. By relation, people in other parts of the country may also be mourning when news of the disaster reached them.
It has been a week of calamity for PNG and a faraway nation that has much in common with us.
While the Haiti earthquake was something beyond human control, the loss of men, women and the little ones - their bodies strewn about like lifeless objects in the Markham Valley or dangling from twisted wrecks - could have been avoided.
But that is as much as we can say about the accident at the moment. Our hearts go to the families who lost loved ones in the PMV buses involved in the accident. We can only imagine the emotions and share in the sense of loss.