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Papua New Guinea

Meet the PNG quake heroes

Helicopter pilot Jurgen Ruh has lost track of the number of evacuations he has done since the earthquake struck in Papua New Guinea.

Mr Ruh has been flying his helicopters to areas which are literally in the middle of the jungle in the Eastern Highlands and closer to the epicentre of the earthquake.

The 58-year-old operates Manolos Aviation from Lae and is known for medical evacuation work by the people living in the highlands. Soon after the tremors hit, the phone lines started ringing.

“People called us directly, they were in need of help. To reach these villages takes around 40 to 50 minutes by helicopter,” Mr Ruh said.

The faces say it all. These people were trapped under a landslide and evacuated to a hospital by Manolos Aviation. Picture: Manolos Aviation Limited
The faces say it all. These people were trapped under a landslide and evacuated to a hospital by Manolos Aviation. Picture: Manolos Aviation Limited

“On our second earthquake related medevac from Wauko Village in the Obura-Wonenara District of Eastern Highlands Province, five children and one adult succumbed to injuries from a landslide caused by the earthquake.

“Unfortunately, one child passed on, and only four children and one adult were medevac to Lae, along with a guardian.”

Mr Ruh was successfully able to transfer a two-year-old whose skull had been crushed, in time to do surgery to save her life.

A life saved. One of the young victims earthquakes in PNG. Picture Manolos Aviation.
Mr Ruh has been flying his helicopters to areas which are literally in the middle of the jungle in the Eastern Highlands and closer to the epicentre of the earthquake. Picture: Manolos Aviation Limited

Rescue efforts after the earthquake have been coordinated mostly by volunteers with some carrying the injured for miles to reach the helicopter landing site.

The villages affected the most are in the highlands which are inaccessible by road as a result of landslides. While PNG authorities have said the death toll stands at only seven, there are fears that this number will rise as reports come from the interior of PNG where the epicenter was.

Mr Ruh arrived in PNG 38 years ago. The young German was in search for an adventure and wanted to help in less developed nations. He said he has since made PNG his home and has started a family.

urgen Ruh in June after evacuating a woman who gave birth to a set of triplets. Picture Manolos Aviation Limited
Jurgen Ruh in June after evacuating a woman who gave birth to a set of triplets. Picture: Manolos Aviation Limited

The Manolos Aviation team have been performing medical evacuations for some time and for them it is about saving lives.

“It is a service to humanity if we are able to save lives. We have flown several missions including trips where we have had to fly in women who were in labour,” Mr Ruh.

“On two occasions I have flown in women who did not know that they were going to have triplets, the last one was in June.

“Medical facilities and care which urban folks take for granted is non-existent in the highlands so most young mothers are not even going for their medical checkups and most times the women and their families do not know how many children are being expected.”

Mr Ruh said if they had waited for a call from the government agencies to act, some lives could have been lost. However he said they were increasing their coordination with the government agencies now.

 

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