admin's picture


PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 22, 1998 - PACNEWS)---Doctors are racing against time and disease to save survivors from Papua New Guinea's tsunami disaster.

At the same time, PNG government officials are expressing fears about the safety of thousands of people still unaccounted for after a 10 meter (33 foot) wave hit a 30 kilometer (18 mile) stretch of northern coastline last Friday night.

Prime Minister Bill Skate confirmed Tuesday that at least 1,200 people, possibly up to 3,000, had died. More than 700 of the dead have been identified and buried, and about 500 bodies have been counted floating in the Sissano Lagoon and the sea.

Skate said at least 6,000 people remained unaccounted for, adding that he wasn't optimistic about their fate.

Leader of the regional rescue team in Vanimo, Ben Stead Taru, told Australian television last night he doubted whether half of those still unaccounted for would be found alive.

Rescuers believe many of the people who fled inland to higher ground are still hiding in the bush, refusing to return to the coast which they regard as haunted.

Some are thought to have died from pneumonia and infected wounds.

One PNG official said the living are threatened by the dead. There are fears of disease sweeping through the area as a result of decomposing bodies on land, along the coastline, and at sea.

Already scavenging animals have been killed to prevent the spread of disease.

Speaking from Vanimo, the commanding officer of the Australian military field hospital, Major Paul Taylor, said more than 200 people had been treated in the 24 hours since the hospital became operational Monday and some 55 operations had been performed.

He said there were many head injuries, broken arms and legs, infected wounds, pneumonia, as well as severe shock.

Major Paul said "We have a heck of a lot of medical work still to do. We need to focus on those we can help."

Rate this article: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Add new comment