Magazine article Workforce

New Guinea's Killer Tsunami Spurs Crisis Response

Magazine article Workforce

New Guinea's Killer Tsunami Spurs Crisis Response

Article excerpt

Without warning, residents on the north shore of Papua New Guinea were devastated by massive tidal waves, or tsunami, on Friday, July 17. A tsunami is a series of sea waves caused by underwater earthquakes, landslides or volcanoes. Tsunami can occur anywhere, but are most common in the Pacific Ocean.

An undersea earthquake registering magnitude 7 on the Richter scale produced five waves, the largest approximately 25 feet, that swamped the country's northern coast. Entire villages were wiped out in Papua New Guinea, the nation on the island of New Guinea north of Australia. According to eyewitness reports, there was no warning before the massive walls of water crashed into the country's coastline. Early reports recorded the death toll at 700, but estimates on the final number of lives lost was expected to reach as many as 3,000.

Although much of the area was undeveloped, a small number of Americans and others have lived in Papua for years. A Huntington Beach, California-based organization, Wycliffe Bible Translators, had linguist volunteers John and Bonnie Nystrom living in the area at the time. "The Nystroms weren't in the village when the waves occurred, but they flew there to assist in whatever way they could," says Stuart Shepherd, Wycliffe's international coordinator for crisis management. One of their four national co-workers lost his life. The other three were injured.

Emergency response procedures have followed a controlled course in Papua New Guinea with the help of volunteers from around the world. …

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