Earthquakes and Prayers

Maybe my Facebook newsfeed reads a little different than yours but yesterday I had lots of postings regarding the recent 7.7 earthquake in PNG.  (The earthquake as well as lots of people posting pictures from the Garth Brooks concert in Sacramento but that’s another story all together:-)  But anyways back to the PNG earthquake taking over my newsfeed, it started with a trickle of friends and family asking people in PNG if they were ok, what damage was done, etc.  But awhile later there were posts from people in PNG and other people home on furlough, etc who were asking for prayer, posting news stories and the like.

PNG Map

Earthquakes of all sizes happen often in PNG.  I felt one about every month or so while I was there.  Sometimes they were bigger, sometimes smaller but generally (where I was) the damage was usually minimal.  I spent most of my time in the highlands and I remember many the large earthquakes that I heard about in the area occurred underwater.  So while we might possibly feel them (or not), it’s the coastal areas that are often more subject to damage.  To give you some perspective, PNG is roughly the size of California.  So just like an earthquake in LA is often not a threat to people living in Sacramento, an earthquake near Rabaul (like this most recent one) does not even register in the minds of people living in Ukarumpa (roughly between Lae and Mt Hagen if you’re looking at the map above).

PNG Map Earthquake

However, earthquakes can still cause damage, especially in the coastal regions.  But not usually because of the earthquakes themselves but because of tsunamis triggered by the earthquakes.  Tsunamis have the ability to wipe out villages or even devastate an entire language group.  This has happened in PNG.  I’ve heard no news of large tsunamis yet and my friends in the Solomon Islands are not reporting any warnings but please pray for no ill-effects from this large earthquake.  Thanks for keeping this region in your prayers once again!

Seismic Activity in PNG

Here is the promised picture of the ‘gutpela luk luk’ or view from my bedroom window which is up 1000 feet above Madang, the town hidden in the trees on the coastline below. While I was sitting in my bedroom on Saturday afternoon resting- I felt what I thought was a strong gust of wind shake the building.  However, the curtains were not billowing as usual and the considerable shaking didn’t stop.  It was my first earthquake in PNG!  Coming from California it didn’t seem too out of place but it was surprising nonetheless.  The shaking stopped after about 30 seconds and it wasn’t strong enough to damage anything or even knock things off the shelves.  Earthquakes are a normal part of life in PNG and the seismic activity has had a big impact on the culture through geography.  In the chapter Long Taim Bipo from the book Papua New Guinea by Sean Dorney- he describes the geography of PNG stating that “Geographically it is a young, violent land.  Located between the old, stable continental mass of Australia and the Pacific Ocean’s deep basin, the segment of the earth’s crust on which most of PNG sits is highly mobile.  The friction caused by its constant movement has created the folded and faulted mountain ranges which continue to shake and occasionally explode to this day.”  So I don’t mind the earthquakes but hopefully I will be able to steer clear of the volcanoes.