The scale of the human tragedy there, especially with so many children killed, was almost beyond belief.
– ABC’s Papua New Guinea correspondent Sean Dorney
In the years before the Boxing Day Tsunami wrought havoc across the Indian ocean, and Fukushima was demolished by enormous waves, Australia was alerted to these dangers by a disaster closer to home.
On 17 July 1998 a powerful earthquake shook the east coast of Papua New Guinea, followed quickly by a devastating wave which swept through settlements, obliterating villages and killing thousands. Several days later on news broadcasts around the world the first footage of the aftermath revealed the shocking extent of damage.
Professor Hugh Davies saw this devastation first hand and how the local and international community rallied around Aitape. Australian surgeons, NGOs and military were a significant part of the recovery efforts. His book Aitape Story describes the full scale of the event and response, and explains the geological factors that led to the disaster.
The scientific investigations that followed the event brought new understanding about earthquakes and tsunamis that informed future responses, and Prof Davies hopes the information in this book will help prevent the same levels of destruction from occurring again.