ExxonMobil PNG Limited, operator of PNG LNG, has led a team of emergency assessment and relief personnel in a visit to the earthquake affected area near the Hides Gas Conditioning Plant in the Hela Province.

The team of 10 made one of the first visits possible to the area since the earthquake. On board the ExxonMobil PNG-chartered helicopter were company representatives, disaster assessors from international aid agencies and representatives of relief organisations including international church groups.

Representatives included The United Church, The Salvation Army, the International Organisation for Migration, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

A priority for the group was to rapidly assess the level of damage, the immediate needs of those affected, and how resources can be mobilised and local health centres supported.

Anticipating some of the expected resource needs, the team delivered some basic essentials such as shelter, water and sanitation support to the Para Clinic.

In addition, ExxonMobil Managing Director Andrew Barry and senior management flew over the impacted area near its facilities and visited the Hides Gas Conditioning Plant to speak with staff and inspect damage to facilities.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of life, injury and damage this natural event has caused in our project area communities and people in the broader Highlands region,” said Andrew Barry, ExxonMobil PNG managing director.

“We are using our resources to support relief agencies to assess the priority needs of the affected communities. As we become more aware of the extent of the impact of the earthquake, we can make more informed decisions about ongoing needs in communities,” he said.

Earlier this week ExxonMobil PNG advised that its facilities, including the Hides Gas Conditioning Plant and Hides well pads in Hela Province, were safely shut down following the earthquake.

Evacuation of non-essential personnel from the Hides Gas Conditioning Plant has been completed with specialist engineers flown to Hides to join remaining personnel on site to assist with damage and repair assessments.

Surveillance of the pipeline on Wednesday 28 Feb confirmed it has not been damaged.

A full assessment of the damage caused by the earthquake is expected to take time, particularly given the damage to roads and other infrastructure.