Media Reports on TSUNAMI of 8 September 2002
Compiled by Lori Dengler

Four killed in earthquake
Post Courier Sept 9, 2002
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

FOUR people are confirmed dead on Kairuru Island, off Wewak, East Sepik Province following a series of earth tremors early yesterday morning. The casualty list could be more, but provincial authorities were late yesterday still awaiting reports from other outer islands and coastal areas that were hit by tidal waves, as well as inland areas affected by the tremors which registered 7.5 on the Richter scale. Among the four confirmed dead were a mother and her child, who were reportedly killed when their house collapsed on them while they slept at Victoria Bay on Kairuru Island. The others were an elderly woman, who was also killed when she was trapped in her home at Tabil village, also on Kairuru Island, and another person. The earth tremors and tidal waves also caused extensive damage to homes and gardens in many of the affected island and inland villages. The Wewak General Hospital also reported yesterday that 14 people were admitted with injuries sustained in the disaster. This figure was at 10am yesterday, and authorities said it could increase when the outer islands and inland areas are reached. Reports from Wewak said the islands of Kairuru, Musu and the Wallace and Tarue group of islands were badly affected, while on the coast Boiken was struck hard. In Wewak town, a number of houses were damaged, especially on Wewak Hill, and power poles and the water pipes broken, affecting water and power supplies to the town residents. In the hinterland, Maprik was badly hit by the tremors, with reports of several people being injured in falling houses and small land slips. The Catholic Mission station manager on Kairuru Graham Lynch, said the islanders were shaken awake at about 4.45 am yesterday by the massive quake. Mr Lynch said while some of the villagers instinctively made for higher ground before the waves hit, about 15 to 20 minutes later, most were still asleep when they were hit. He said two waves, measuring "several feet high" hit the sleeping villages along the coastal areas and island. "It was still dark and not many people knew what was happening," he said. He said the mission station was on the sheltered side of the island, and it could be worse on the side facing the open sea. A councillor from the island who visited several affected villages, William Marain, said destruction to the villages were quite extensive. He said the villagers on the island were still in shock and were fearful that a bigger disaster could hit.

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Date: 9 Sept 2002
Papua New Guinea - Earthquake OCHA Situation Report No. 1
Ref: OCHA/GVA - 2002/0181
OCHA Situation Report No. 1 Papua New Guinea - Earthquake 9 September
This situation report is based on information provided by sources in Papua New Guinea (PNG) including the UNDP Office, the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), the University of PNG, and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies regional delegation, through the OCHA Regional Disaster Response Adviser, based in Suva. Situation 1. A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5 on the Richter Scale and depth of 30 km struck the north coast of PNG at 1844 hours UTC on Sunday 8 September 2002 (local time: 0444 hours on Monday 9 September). The epicentre was 3.2 degrees south, 142.9 degrees east; on the coastline one third of the 280 km distance from Wewak, capital of East Sepik Province, to Vanimo, capital of West Sepik, and 830 km northwest of Port Moresby. A tsunami warning was issued for the Pacific from the Philippines in the west, to Japan in the North, Marshall Islands in the east, and New Caledonia in the south.
2. At present damage reports are sketchy, but according to the East Sepik Provincial Disaster Coordinator, the earthquake killed 3 people and injured an as yet unknown number in Wewak Township itself, which suffered some structural damage due to the shaking rather than the effects of the small tsunami the earthquake generated. This report is corroborated by the Governor of the province, who has been in communication with the provincial hospital, where the casualties were taken. The town's electricity and water supplies have been disrupted, and one bridge was damaged. 50 km west-southwest of Wewak and some 60 km from the epicentre, at Maprik Station, the police post reported collapsed houses and burst water tanks, but no landslides, flooding, or damage to the road.
3. Just over the provincial border in West Sepik Province, 7 traditional dwellings built of bush materials collapsed in Suain village, very close to the epicentre, but without causing any injuries. At Aitape village further along the coast, scene of the devastating 1998 tsunami, villagers reported a 1-1.5 m tsunami. The tsunami swept 10-15 m inland in some places, damaging houses and swamping small boats in at least two villages, but again no casualties were reported. The earthquake was also felt in Vanimo, but the District Administrator has reported no major damage.
4. Notwithstanding the relatively light damage and casualties in these first verbal reports, it is possible that more serious incidents have occurred in other more remote areas, particularly further inland and in the tiny Tarawai and Walis Islands adjacent to the epicentre. The toll of casualties may therefore increase over the coming hours and days, as news emerge from outlying locations in the provinces. Houses along the coast may have been damaged by the tsunami, though traditional dwellings are lightly-built and quite resilient to earthquakes. However, many domestic water tanks may have been toppled by the shaking.
5. A proper assessment of the situation is being planned at provincial level under the authority of the Governor, supported by the NDMO in Port Moresby, although the latter is already stretched managing the response to the Pango Volcano eruption in Kimbe, West New Britain Province. The Director-General of NDMO flew to Wewak at 1030 hours today. The NDMO indicated that the provincial government should be able to produce an initial report on the situation soon.
6. Bilateral donors, international agencies, the Red Cross and national NGOs are on stand-by and ready to provide assistance if required, as relevant information emerges from the affected locations.
7. OCHA Geneva has issued an alert for UNDAC members in the Pacific region. The deployment of an UNDAC team is being discussed with the UN Resident Coordinator and the national authorities. OCHA will prepare a second situation report on this disaster as more information becomes available.
8. This situation report, together with information on other ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at

Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP) Date: 10 Sept 2002
Death toll rises to six, many reported homeless after PNG quake PORT MORESBY, Sept 10 (AFP) - Authorities in Papua New Guinea were still assessing the damage Tuesday from a powerful earthquake that struck its northern coast 24 hours earlier, leaving up to six people dead and as many as 3,000 homeless. Disaster management officials met early Tuesday in Wewak, the capital of East Sepik province near the quake's epicenter, to compile reports from stricken villages along the coast and on six nearby islands. An official with the Catholic church in Wewak said latest reports were that six people had been killed when their houses collapsed under the force of the magnitude 7.6 earthquake that struck before dawn on Monday. The quake caused a small tidal wave which washed up to 15 meters (45 feet) inland, undermining the foundations of houses. The church official, Herman Aabai, said incomplete reports indicated that 30-40 houses had been badly damaged or destroyed in and around Wewak and another 60 on the outlying islands. Wewak's main water supply remained cut off after being ruptured by the quake, he told AFP by telephone. An official with the Save the Children Fund, Yvonne Tawia, told Radio New Zealand that up to 1,000 people in Wewak and another 2,000 on the islands were without shelter following the quake. But the National Disaster Management Office in the capital Port Moresby said it was too early to estimate the number of homeless as information was still coming in from more remote areas. "We have no real figures yet on homeless or the numbers of homes directly affected, I expect those will come in later today," said Martin Mose, assistant director of the office. He told AFP the number of homes destroyed by the quake was probably "well under 100" and said the number of confirmed dead was three, with reports that three other people may also have been killed. Prime Minister Michael Somare, whose home in Wewak was damaged by the quake, was overseeing the government's emergency response operation in the area, officials said. Local residents said two more aftershocks jolted the area overnight. dm/mp AFP Copyright (c) 2002 Agence France-Presse Received by NewsEdge Insight: 09/09/2002 21:44:05

Source: IFRC Date: 10 Sept 2002
Papua New Guinea: Earthquake Information Bulletin No. 01
The Situation
A powerful earthquake in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has killed three people and caused widespread damage, latest reports indicate. The quake measured 7.5 on the Richter scale and struck Monday morning (local time), 9 September 2002. The epicentre was 100km off PNG's north coast. ABC radio in Australia reported that in the town of Wewak, houses had collapsed and the main water supply had ruptured. Electricity supplies were also interrupted and a bridge was reported to be damaged. A small tsunami resulted from the earthquake and seas rose one metre and flooded up to 15 metres inland in some parts. Chris McKee from PNG Geological Survey told ABC that the quake was one of the strongest for some time. Of the three people killed, two are believed to have drowned when the tsunami swamped houses in coastal areas Catholic Church official Francis Kemaken told the news agency AFP that the death and injury toll `would definitely increase' as reports come in from four islands in the area. `They probably experienced extensive damage to houses,' he said. At least two villages had been badly hit and a number of boats lost. PNG's director for the National Disaster Management Office reported 34 houses destroyed on Tarawai island and 10 on Walis island. An undersea earthquake in 1998 caused a tsunami that struck the neighbouring West Sepik province, killing more than 2,000 people. Red Cross/Red Crescent Action The Madang branch of the PNG Red Cross is the closest to the disaster zone and it is continuing to monitor the situation. The Australian Red Cross, New Zealand Red Cross and the Federation are all keeping a close eye on developments and waiting to hear if the government and National Society need any assistance in their response to the disaster. The director of the National Disaster Management Office is currently travelling to the earthquake zone to assess the situation. For a full description of the National Society profile, see For further details please contact Caroline Dunn, Phone 4122 730 4257; email: Suzana Jekic, Phone 4122 730353; Fax 4122 733 0395; email

Wewak schools closed
Port Moresby Post Courier Sept 11, 2002
ALL schools in Wewak were ordered closed and children sent home yesterday following the earthquake that rocked the area early on Monday morning. East Sepik provincial police commander chief superintendent Leo Kabilo said yesterday: "All the schools in Wewak have been closed and all the children sent home following the earthquake which destroyed many of the infrastructure in and around town, including the town water supply." At least four people were killed in the tremor which measured 7.5 on the Richter scale. At Dagua, the Catholic health centre suffered some damage to parts of its clinic building. "Boram hospital is also on the verge of being closed due to water shortage," Supt Kabilo said. He said police are keeping a close watch on property to prevent theft. East Sepik Bishop Tony Burgess told the Post-Courier from Wewak yesterday that an emergency meeting was held last night between the officials from the national disaster and emergency services and the Government to assess the extent of the damage. He confirmed seven houses were completely destroyed and 24 partially destroyed at Tarawai Island, 31 destroyed and 23 partially at Big Mushu, nine completely and seven partially destroyed at Supabu. "I am not able to confirm the exact number of houses damaged or destroyed until a proper assessment is carried out by the officials from the national disaster and emergency services, Bishop Burgess said. He said in the Boikin area, five houses along the coast were destroyed and three at Karawab village, while further along the coast another 13 houses were also destroyed at Yuo village situated on the mainland. No reports of damage were received from Dagua Health Centre. The provincial disaster office is still carrying out inspections of the outlying islands and the hinterland to asses what damage these areas suffered. Reports received so far state that 24 people have been treated at the Wewak Hospital. The death toll still remains at four. In Port Moresby, a scientist at the University of Papua New Guinea says the earthquake and tsunami which struck on Monday didnt cause much damage because it occurred in shallow water. Dr Augustine Mungkaje, who comes from Tarawai Island which was affected by the earthquake, said if the earthquake had occurred in water more than 1km in depth, it would have created big waves like the Aitape tsunami, which could have resulted in many more deaths and destruction. Dr Mungkaje said information obtained from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii stated that the strength of the earthquake was 7.4 on the Richter Scale. He said the earthquakes epicentre was only 575 metres offshore of Sowom village on the west coast of Wewak. He said the earthquake occurred at a depth of 471m (less than half a kilometre), and was between the islands of Wallis and Tarawai and the coastal villages of Sowom and Suain on the mainland. "If the earthquake had occurred in waters deeper than one kilometre, big tsunami waves would have caused devastation to the neighbouring islands and coastal villages on the East Sepik mainland, Dr Mungkaje said. Meanwhile, East Sepiks living in the National Capital District have formed a group to raise funds and collect relief supplies for earthquake victims from the islands and coastal areas of the province. A meeting of an organising committee was held last night at Alphonse Kraus residence at Kaubebe St, Boroko. Organisers yesterday appealed to "anyone from the Wewak islands interested in assisting the committee speak to Mr Krau on telephone number 323 9763, Ralph Saulep of Saulep Lawyers on 325 9811 and fax 325 9812 to gather more information or volunteer their help for the appeal.

Wewak Post-Earthquake Risk Assessment
Report on a visit to Wewak 9-11 September 2002 by Professor Hugh Davies UPNG
An earthquake of moment magnitude (MW) 7.4, Richter magnitude (MR) 7.7, occurred at 4.45 am local time on 9 September 2002 at an epicentre about 70 km west-northwest of Wewak, at or near 3oS 143oE. The earthquake was at relatively shallow depth (30 km depth reported by Port Moresby Geophysical Observatory) and was strongly felt in the Wewak area. The earthquake was of significantly greater magnitude than that which caused a devastating tsunami at Aitape in 1998. A small tsunami was generated.
Details of this mission
At 11 am on 9 September this observer departed Port Moresby on aircraft P2-PNG and arrived Wewak 12.40 pm. At 2.40 pm the observer departed Wewak on helicopter P2-MTS in company of Minister Sir Peter Barter, Governor, East Sepik, Mr Arthur Somare, and a TV cameraman representing RTA and EM TV. The party returned to Wewak at about 5.30 pm. On 10 September the observer visited sites along the coast west of Wewak, by road and foot, in the company of Governor East Sepik Province, AAP journalist Jim Baynes, and driver. On 11 September the observer visited the Murik people's settlement at Namba 2 Pasis in Wewak, and returned to Port Moresby on P2-PNG, arriving 2 pm.
Objectives of mission:
1. To ascertain whether any people are at risk of further damage or injury following on from the earthquake of 9.9.02.
2. To talk with people, answer questions, and, as far as possible, reassure them so that the element of panic following the earthquake and tsunami is minimized.
Please note that this is not a damage assessment report.

1. Aerial inspection of selected localities, looking for indications of unstable ground or slopes that might fail, and so might threaten villages or houses.
2. Visits to as many locations as possible, in the time available, to make on-the-ground inspections of possible hazardous sites, and talk with people.
3. Record details of damage, of earth movements and of tsunami wave run-up heights in as many places as possible, in the time available.
Localities inspected from the air (helicopter P2-MTS):
1. Mussu Island western end and part of centre
2. Kairiru island all coasts
3. Yuo and Keresau Islands
4. Walis and Tarawai Islands
5. Mainland coastline from Dagua east to Wewak

Localities inspected on the ground:
1. Sup village on Mussu
2. St Xavier College on Kairiru
3. Koragur (or Korgur) village on north coast of Kairiru
4. Yuo on south coast of Yuo Island
5. Tarawai on west coast of Tarawai Island
6. Walis on south coast of Walis Island
7. Boiken Baja near Boiken on mainland
8. But Mission on mainland
9. Kauk village on mainland
10. Dagua Mission on mainland
11. Kwabun village, east of Boiken
12. Katio hamlet on Hawain River
13. Ubidnim village (one of the Yuo villages) at mouth of Hawain River
14. Namba 2 Pasis (Murik people settlement) on Wewak peninsula
15. Coast Highway from Wewak to Kauk turn-off (past But)

1. No people were found to be at risk of further damage or injury arising from the earthquake and tsunami.
2. Where unstable conditions were recognized, for example at Koragur village, people had already taken appropriate action. At Koragur, the coastal cliff had become unstable and people already had marked off the unstable ground and had made plans to relocate houses that were at risk.
3. There appeared to have been uplift of about 30 cm along parts of the wave-cut platform and reefs along the coast of Kairiru, Mussu and Tarawai Islands. This was noteworthy but presented no risk to people. Upward or downward movement of the earth's crust at the time of a strong earthquake is a relatively common phenomenon. The uplift needs to be checked again to ensure it was not a temporary effect.
4. Cracks developed in the ground on the beachfront at Kauk, and in and near Ubidnim village. At these and other locations, the subsurface sediments had liquefied and had emerged up the cracks and in some cases squirted into the air. Liquefaction of subsurface sediments at the time of a strong earthquake is a common phenomenon.
5. A crack that is reportedly causing concern to people on Keresau Island was not inspected, but should be inspected by a geologist. It is likely that it will prove to be similar to those seen at Kauk and Ubidnim.
6. The tsunami developed within minutes of the earthquake.
7. Tsunami run-up height (the maximum height reached by the tsunami wave as it came ashore) was in most places less than a metre, but was 1.5 m at Kauk, and reportedly 3-4 m in the bay immediately east of the point at Boiken (location not visited by this observer). Other observations of run-up height are being tabulated and will be reported separately.
8. The level of tsunami awareness in the coastal villages is high. People knew of the danger of a tsunami following the strongly felt earthquake, and moved inland. After the event, some islands people had left the islands for the same reason.
9. Almost all of the visible damage was caused by the earthquake, and not by the tsunami. Typical damage was for bush-material houses to have collapsed or to have tilted or twisted, and for tanks and water reticulation systems to have been broken or disrupted.
10. Shallow water wells in some coastal villages became filled with sand, due to the liquefaction and movement of subsurface sediments.
11. In most of the villages visited, about 10 percent of houses had collapsed and a further 20-30 percent were damaged. The damage was not greater in the western villages, such as Kauk, as might have been expected in view of the location of the epicentre on or close to longitude 143oE.
12. Most or all deaths and injuries were caused by the collapse of houses, or as people escaped from houses.
13. Damage caused directly by the tsunami was reported in the bay immediately east of the point at Boiken; on the southwest coast of Mussu; and in Victoria Bay on Kairiru. None of these sites was visited by this observer.
14. People from coastal villages and some of the islands have retreated inland for fear of a tsunami. The people should be encouraged to return to their villages because the risk of a tsunami developing is no greater than it was in the past. However, they should be encouraged to remain alert, as in the past, and to move inland in the event of any strongly felt earthquake.

1. No new risks or hazards
The inspection carried out on 9-11 September indicated that in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami no new risks or hazards are threatening the population.
2. Further inspection
However, not all sites were visited and it is desirable that a further inspection be made as soon as conveniently possible.
3. Resume normal life
People who have voluntarily evacuated from the coast or islands should be encouraged to return to their villages and resume normal life. 4. Assistance needed
Some people in most villages are temporarily without shelter, or have houses that need repair. In many villages water supplies have been disrupted. The people need assistance with temporary cover (tent flies), building materials, water containers and restoration of water supply reticulation systems, tanks and wells.