In Timu village, Komo-Magarima district of the Hela Province, the pain of losing loved ones is still raw eight days on.
The old men cry for the loss of their sons, daughters and grandchildren who died in the landslip caused by the quake.
The village is unrecognisable. It has been replaced by tons of rock and debris.
“This is where we found the body of a baby girl. She was still breast feeding. Then we found her mother and older sister,” said Timu villager, Ando Tangiato.
A crew made up of NBC’s Sylvester Gawi and EMTV cameraman, Raguel Kepas, travelled with Dr. Tana Kiak into Timu village where it was reported that 30 people had died.
It has been difficult getting information from places like Timu. Getting accurate information is difficult and expensive. As the helicopter circled the village, it was clear, not many would have survived.
Eleven people died at Timu. Four were recovered. But a whole family of seven is still buried. The villagers armed with spades and bush knives are struggling with the thought that they may have to abandon the recovery effort go on in life without, at least, finding the bodies.
“We planted ‘pitpit’ here to mark the graves because we can’t find them,” says another villager.
While others affected by the quake count their costs in terms of damaged infrastructure and the loss of revenue, this is the human face of the tragedy.
Sana Bongu, a grade five student at Magarima Primary school lost his entire family – his father, mother, siblings and an uncle.
Mekere Alo, had send his wife and child to live her parents – they all died in the quake.
Dr. Tana Kiak and his team of three doctors, came armed with medical kits and a stack of death certificates. So far, they are the only medical team working out of Tari. For the past week, they have been shuttling between Tari and quake stricken areas.
With each visit, the death toll continues to rise steadily.
“We have just issued 11 death certificates. We told them that they are in a dangerous location so they will be seeing more chopper flights into this area.”
EMTV Mt. Hagen Bureau cameraman, Abdon Bumpu and I travel into Huiya village on the Hela-Western border, more than 2000 people have gathered in what’s now become a care center.
Food is in short supply as people from neighboring villages flock in to the mission station after losing their homes and gardens.
People here don’t usually congregate in large villages like in coastal areas. But the quake forced them to gather at central locations like the mission stations and schools where the ground is a lot more stable.
Kids clutch dirty water containers. Authorities in Tari fear that if the water shortage isn’t addressed quickly, there could be outbreaks of typhoid and other diseases.
The response from the National Government has been sluggish. The first hint of assistance came from the Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) which flew in supplies and evacuated a few injured from the Huiya- Bosavi area on the Hela- Western Border.
The Australian Government has been ferrying supplies into Moro, then on to Tari and other centers.
Yesterday, Oil Search teams delivered much needed medicines to the Tari Hospital. The PNGDF has been carrying people out of remote areas of the Hela and Southern Highlands.
It will take weeks before the full scale of this disaster is understood.
For now, the death toll now stands at 75 and climbing.