Ai­tape Story: The Great New Guinea Tsunami of 1998 (Hal­stead Press), by Hugh Davies

Paradise - - Living -

In 1998, a tsunami struck Ai­tape, a small town on the north coast of Pa­pua New Guinea, and nearby vil­lages.

Hugh Davies is a pro­fes­sor of ge­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Pa­pua New Guinea (UPNG). Born in Aus­tralia he first vis­ited PNG in 1957.

In 1994, Davies as­sisted vol­ca­nol­o­gists after the vol­canic erup­tion that laid waste to Rabaul. From 1998 to 2001 he was in­ti­mately in­volved with many as­pects of the Ai­tape tsunami af­ter­math.

His book, in part, re­counts the events of July 17, 1998, after the waves (there were three) pum­melled Ai­tape, swept away two vil­lages – Warapu and Arop – and dam­aged oth­ers. Up to 2200 peo­ple died, many were in­jured, and about 11,000 peo­ple aban­doned their coastal vil­lage sites and moved in­land.

The book cov­ers many as­pects of the disas­ter, in­clud­ing the emer­gency re­sponse, and serves as a trib­ute to those who died. Davies lived among the Ai­tape sur­vivors for months. “I know part of him never left the tsunami-af­fected area,” wrote one friend.

The book can be bought from the Univer­sity Book­shop, UPNG.

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