HAMNET Report 2nd June 2024

I have to start this bulletin with reference to the disastrous landslide in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea on Friday the 24th May. A mass of boulders, earth and splintered trees devastated the village of Yambali when a limestone mountainside sheared away that Friday.

The blanket of debris has become more unstable with recent rain and streams trapped between the ground and rubble, said Serhan Aktoprak, chief of the International Organisation for Migration’s mission in Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea’s government has told the UN it thinks more than 2,000 people were buried in the rubble.

“We are hearing suggestions that another landslide can happen and maybe 8,000 people need to be evacuated,” Mr Aktoprak told the Associated Press.

“This is a major concern. The movement of the land, the debris, is causing a serious risk, and overall the total number of people that may be affected might be 6,000 or more,” he said.

That includes villagers whose source of clean drinking water has been buried and subsistence farmers who lost their vegetable gardens.

“If this debris mass is not stopped, if it continues moving, it can gain speed and further wipe out other communities and villages further down,” Mr Aktoprak said.

A UN statement later tallied the affected population at 7,849, including people who might need to be evacuated or relocated. The UN said 42% of those people were younger than 16 years old.

“My biggest fear at the moment is corpses that are decaying,… water is flowing and this is going to pose serious health risks in relation to contagious diseases,” Mr Aktoprak said.

The warning comes as geotechnical experts and heavy earth-moving equipment are expected to reach the site soon.

The Papua New Guinea government on Sunday officially asked the United Nations for additional help and to co-ordinate contributions from individual nations.

An Australian disaster response team arrived on Tuesday in Papua New Guinea, which is Australia’s nearest neighbour. The team includes a geohazard assessment team and drones to help map the site.

Heartbroken and frustrated Yambali resident Evit Kambu thanked those who were trying to find her missing relatives in the rubble.

“I have 18 of my family members buried under the debris and soil that I’m standing on,” she told Australian Broadcasting Corp through an interpreter.

“But I can’t retrieve the bodies, so I’m standing here helplessly.”

Australian deputy prime minister Richard Marles said an Australian air force C-17 Globemaster, a four-engine transport jet capable of carrying 77 tons of cargo, was already bringing supplies from Australia to Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby.

Two smaller Australian air force turboprop transport planes were already at Port Moresby, which is 370 miles south-east of the devastated village.

Papua New Guinea is a diverse, developing nation with 800 languages and 10 million people who are mostly subsistence farmers.

After our building collapse in George last month, I’m sure we can easily imagine the trauma and suffering experienced by local survivors who don’t have any news of loved ones.

Nigel Rotherham ZS6RN has sent me a very complete report with tons of pictures of the annual Gauteng Scouting Kon-Tiki event, held between 17th and 19th May 2024 at Arrowe Park. I am going to have to prune the report significantly to fit it in to this bulletin.

He notes that close on 4,000 individuals (including HAMNET Gauteng members) participated in one way or another at the annual Gauteng Scouting Kon-Tiki event. The theme for this year’s event was “Ship Wrecked”.

Kon-Tiki is a competition where Scout Troops build a raft from drums, rope and poles using pioneering and other Scouting skills. In the Western Cape and Gauteng Kon-Tiki events, a patrol or team stays on the raft for 24 hours and completes various challenges while other Scouts who assisted in raft construction take part in “fringe” events on shore while the raft is afloat. Cub and Meerkat activities also take place as part of the overall Kon-Tiki experience.

Nigel notes that scouts built 47 rafts in total on Friday afternoon, and 1200 participants slept over that night, completing the projects early Saturday morning before launching that day, witnessed in total by about 3700 people. All rafts had launched by 15h30, with a 100% flotation success, and about 376 scouts slept on the water on the rafts that night. A campfire for 800 remaining land scouts was made that Saturday evening.

Hamnet Gauteng participation consisted of providing support for Kon-Tiki staff in the form of technical assistance for camp wide communications using the 433Mhz licence free band and based at the central JOC, which served as home for all the various ‘services’ in attendance.

The Scouts have their own stock of licence free hand-helds of which about 25 were deployed to the many staff, from the camp chief down, including those with water based responsibilities and roving ‘judges’.

Hamnet Gauteng also deployed one of their disaster communications units (i.e. multiple radios in a ‘GoBox’) as a means for members to ‘play radio’ and demonstrate the hobby to anyone passing by who showed interest. The JOC was located adjacent to the parade ground in the Info Tent which could not be missed being that it was a large white marque!

As with all ‘public service’ events that Hamnet attend, a key benefit of participation is the opportunity to test our skills and readiness of equipment. Kon-Tiki 2024 was no different and after deploying the UHF portable repeater on the Friday evening, it was found to be faulty… Rather have the failure now than in a real world disaster situation.

From set-up on Friday afternoon until breaking camp on Sunday, Hamnet Gauteng again enjoyed the greatest hobby on earth, being of service to others and also in the public eye.

Thanks go to the HAMNET Event Coordinators Brian (ZS6YZ) and Leon (ZS6LMG) plus team members Channette (ZS6CAC), Johan (ZS6DMX), Hannas (ZS6EMS), Andre (ZS6HE), Anja (ZS6SJC), Wim (ZS6WIM) and Maud, Lizette (ZS6ZET), Pro Ethnos International Fire and Rescue and of course Nigel (ZS6RN) during the weekend.

Nigel has sent a selection of very good photos to Anette ZR6D for inclusion on the HAMNET – South African Radio League – Emergency Communication Network Facebook Page. Thank you for the very comprehensive report, Nigel.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.