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CANBERRA, Australia (September 23, 1997 - PACNEWS)---A Royal Australian Air Force Hercules transport aircraft has resumed flying emergency food and medical supplies into the Western Province of Papua New Guinea, as villagers in remote areas cope with the worst drought in 50 years.

To reach the highlands, the pilots have had to fly through thick smoke haze from fires burning out of control in the affected areas.

The plane is scheduled to complete four missions this week.

The PNG disaster relief agency now estimates that some three-quarters of a million people are affected by the drought, which is predicted by weather experts to continue into next year.

The Australian government has contributed an initial assistance package of $366,000 and has told the PNG government in Port Moresby it stands ready to consider further requests for emergency assistance as may be required.

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