ESTIMATES 3,000 DEAD AND 6,000 MISSING IN PNG DISASTER

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VANIMO, Papua New Guinea (July 22, 1998 - Radio Australia)---Rescue workers are battling to help survivors amid mounting fears thousands of people may have perished when deadly tidal waves wiped out villages on the remote north coast of Papua New Guinea.

Radio Australia correspondent Tim Palmer has sent this report by satellite telephone from the village of Vanimo:

"While unofficial estimates have suggested as many as 3,000 dead and a further 6,000 missing, the official body count still rests at between 700 and 800. But there are reports that hundreds more bodies have been seen in Susano lagoon.

"Despite uncertainty about the actual population in the area at the time of the tsunami, officials are counting the missing in the thousands.

"At the army field hospital alone, more than 160 operations have been conducted, three patients dying during surgery. That's highlighted the health complications now appearing, such a pneumonia from emersion and serious infection of flesh wounds.

"Tim Palmer reporting from Vanimo, West Sepik Province."

 

MEDICAL WORKERS IN PNG SAY THEY HAVE TREATED ALL SURVIVORS

VANIMO, Papua New Guinea (July 22, 1998 - Radio Australia)---Medical workers on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea say they have treated virtually all of the survivors of Friday's tsunami.

Officials say more than 1,100 of the dead have been buried.

Radio Australia correspondent Greg Byrnes reports a Japanese medical team of 11 doctors and nurses will arrive in PNG tomorrow, while Australian aid agencies are preparing resettlement packs which contain cooking utensils, a bush knife, an axe and vegetable seeds

"Over the last 36 hours, over 200 villagers have been treated here in the Australian mobile surgery at Vanimo, four days after a 30 kilometer (18 mile) stretch of coastline was inundated by a wall of water.

"Witnesses have described the wave as a plane flying low overhead followed by a huge bomb blast.

"Ambulances continue to ferry the injured into local hospitals but Australian defense force officials say up to 90 percent of the injured have now been treated.

"The fact that many of the bodies have been washed out to sea and local population records are poor means it's unlikely we'll ever know how many people died along PNG's remote northwestern coastline.

"Greg Byrnes, Vanimo."

 

CHILD SURVIVOR PULLED FROM PNG TIDAL WAVE DEBRIS

VANIMO, Papua New Guinea (July 21, 1998 - Radio Australia)---A nine-year old girl has been pulled from the debris left behind by the tsunami which struck northern Papua New Guinea on Friday.

She's expected to be among the last of the injured brought to Vanimo, west of Aitape.

Royal Australian Airforce Major Paul Taylor says hundreds of injured have already been treated at the makeshift medical center but the mission is far from over.

"People who are coming to medical care now who have had wounds for five days that haven't been cleaned, have still got mud in them," Taylor said. "They need operations and they quite likely need sequential operations, so there's a significant amount of medicine to be done here for a significant period of time."

 

PNG PRIME MINISTER THANKS AUSTRALIA FOR HELP

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 21, 1998 - Radio Australia)--- Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Bill Skate, has appealed to the international community for more medical aid and support, and his expressed his gratitude to Australia for taking a leading role in the rescue mission.

"When I called John Howard for assistance he was willing to give a lending hand and it didn't take long for Australians to get down here, so I'm very proud Australians are our friends when we really needed help," Skate said.

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