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CANBERRA, Australia (September 15, 1997 - PACNEWS)---Papua New Guinea could be facing its worst famine this century, according to a report today in Australia's Sydney Morning Herald.

The report from Mount Hagen says the weak and elderly are beginning to die in the drought stricken and frost-ravaged Highlands.

The PNG government has announced more emergency funding for crisis relief, and has asked Emergency Management Australia to send experts this week to help authorities formulate a survival plan.

The Governor of Enga Province, Peter Ipatas, believes the present estimated national death toll of 80 will rise and disease will spread quickly, if relief does not come soon.

Some PNG government officials estimate that as many as one million people, from the densely populated central highlands to the coastal and island communities, might be affected by the drought, which is blamed on the El Nino weather pattern.

Hundreds of schools around the country have closed, and large-scale mining operations, such as Ok Tedi and Porgera, have been forced to halt production as river levels hit record lows.

Meantime, in the capital of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister has requested the government's release of another $14 million to aid drought and frost victims. Emergency funds totaling $2.8 were released earlier.

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