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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 1, 1998 - Radio Australia)--- Australian aid workers say up to 695,000 people in Papua New Guinea are at risk of starvation in 1998 because of the country's severe drought.

CARE Australia Executive Director Charles Tapp says despite signs the months-long drought may be breaking, it will be up to six months before sweet potato and other crops recover enough to provide a regular supply of food.

Tapp said in the meantime, thousands are in danger unless CARE continues assistance.

Australia has been making food and medical aid drops in Papua New Guinea's remote highlands, where the effects of the drought have been exacerbated by forest fires.

The seven-month drought has been blamed on the El Niñ o weather phenomenon in the Pacific, which creates droughts in some areas and heavier than normal rains in others.

CARE Australia said a week ago typhoid was endemic in the highlands and a recent outbreak of dysentery already has caused the deaths of 15 children.

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