As Papua New Guinea begins to recover from a major earthquake, the Capuchin Province of St. Conrad is raising funds in an effort to help those affected by the devastation.
Capuchins have served as missionaries in the country since 1955, and several of the missionaries currently in Papua New Guinea belong to the St. Conrad province, based in Denver, Colo.
“Sadly, dozens of our people lost their lives, mainly caused by landslides. Four young girls were crushed by a falling wall as they slept in their home in Mendi town. Also in Mendi, a young couple and their first-born child were killed by a landslide,” reported Bishop Don Lippert of Mendi, himself a Capuchin.
“Telephone and internet communications are severely limited and in many places access to water and electricity has been interrupted. Many roads have been blocked by major landslides,” Bishop Lippert continued.
He added that “Reports from the remote parishes paint a grim picture of major loss of infrastructure. The diocese's network of schools and health centers has sustained serious damages throughout the rural, mountainous area.”
Capuchin missionaries to Papua New Guinea built some of the country's first schools, hospitals, and medical clinics.
On Feb. 26, the Papua New Guinea highlands were struck by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, causing over 100 deaths and countless more injuries. The epicenter of the quake was in Enga province, in the vicinity of Wabag.
Days later, on March 6, Papua New Guinea was again hit by a 6.7 magnitude aftershock, leaving the country without electricity and access to communication systems. Over a dozen more deaths occurred during the aftershock, raising the initial death toll to approximately 117.
The Papua New Guinea Red Cross estimated that upwards of 143,000 people have been affected by the earthquake, leaving as many as 17,000 displaced from their homes. Many people are relying on air-drops for their food and water supply.
The earthquake has also damaged much of the islands’ infrastructure through landslides
The governor of the Southern Highlands Province, William Powi, said that the local government has reached its limit for relief efforts, saying, “it is beyond the capacity of the provincial government to cope with the magnitude of destruction and devastation,” according to the New York Times.
Although the islands have a long journey ahead in rebuilding their devastated communities, the Capuchins hope that their funding campaign will give the islands the aid they need.
Pope Francis recently expressed his concern over the situation, invoking “divine blessings of strength and consolation” to those affected by the disaster.