Quake toll exceeds 100 as relief trickles in

THE official death toll following the February 26 earthquake has exceeded 100 and is expected to rise.
Quake toll exceeds 100 as relief trickles in Quake toll exceeds 100 as relief trickles in Quake toll exceeds 100 as relief trickles in Quake toll exceeds 100 as relief trickles in Quake toll exceeds 100 as relief trickles in

Source: ABC, supplied by Catholic Bishop Donald Lippert

Staff Reporter

This is according to Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, who expects the toll to rise as authorities reach cut-off communities and account for the missing.
Over half a million people have been affected across the five hardest hit provinces, according to a March 10 situation report jointly produced by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the PNG government, and more than 270,000 are in immediate need of assistance.
Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has tasked the Speaker of Parliament to recall for an emergency session, in order to declare a state-of-emergency and create a restoration authority for the affected provinces, according to the Post Courier.
Only an emergency restoration by the National Executive Council has been declared thus far.
Papua New Guinea's Defence Force has deployed 70 soldiers from Port Moresby to quake-affected areas in Southern Highlands and Hela provinces to assist in relief efforts, Pacific Media Centre reported. 
Aid continues to trickle into the affected areas as PM O'Neill's government faces criticism from the opposition over its slow response to the earthquake. The prime minister lashed out at the criticism but conceded that PNG's capabilities were limited, according to Radio New Zealand.
Trucks bearing supplies have only reached Hela's provincial capital Tari two weeks after the quake struck, as the roads leading to the town had been cut off by landslides.
"Over the past 24 hours additional food and water supplies have been delivered to Mt Hagen for distribution throughout the disaster area, mostly by helicopter," O'Neill said in a statement on Sunday.
"Trucks have also reached Tari, and the provincial authority has containers of food which are being delivered by church groups working with our disciplined services.
"Further attention is now being given to the establishment of water purification facilities so as to reduce demand for bottled water.
"The government has allocated an initial 2 million Kina to areas worst hit by the earthquake, and another 1 million Kina to areas that had other damage to infrastructure."
Works Secretary David Wreh says the landslide-susceptible Highlands Highway was greatly affected by the earthquake but has had major sections restored for temporary access, the National reported.
PM O'Neill's People's National Congress Party is to hold a fundraising dinner next month for the business community to make contributions to earthquake relief efforts.