PAPUA NEW GUINEA WEEPS FOR AITAPE

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By Peter Kasia

PORT MORESBY: The entire country is beginning to weep over the tragedy that hit the villages in Aitape district on Friday. Those assembled at a meeting at the St. James Hall yesterday lost their control at the thought of the disaster and openly broke into tears.

The meeting, organized by the Sepik community in the city, was to gather views on the ways of relief arrangements and channeling them to help the victims of the tidal waves.

The meeting resolved that, above all, most urgent items such as food, tents and medicine must be immediately sent to Aitape while aid in other forms could be sent in later.

Those present were at times deeply immersed in talks about the tragedy and many, who could not control emotions, broke into tears.

Women, who were not actually from Aitape or West Sepik province, were seen deeply moved by the news of the tragedy.

Chairman of the relief committee, John Wagambie, told the meeting that the situation called for action without loss of time.

Defense Minister Peter Waieng, who was present at the meeting, said that he had directed the HMS Buna to leave for Aitape today with relief supplies.

Mr. Waieng, however, said that the food on board would be sufficient for seven days only. He called on the Government to channel money to buy more food and other essential items.

He also said that six Royal Australian Airforce aircraft, which had arrived here yesterday, would leave for Wewak, Aitape and Vanimo today with relief supplies.

A Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society official said that the Red Cross headquarters had already sent in K50,000 ($US 22.401) for buying essential relief supplies.

The officer said the society's medical staff, who were currently in Bougainville, had been directed to leave the island immediately for Aitape.

One nurse from the society's Port Moresby office had already been sent to Aitape to work with health workers there.

The meeting was attended by more than a thousand people.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Archdiocese of Madang has appealed to the Madang community and business houses for financial contributions to help the tidal wave survivors.

Archdiocesan treasurer Brother Theo Becker, in a statement yesterday, told the Madang people about the extent of the tragedy.

Brother Theo said that early yesterday morning helicopters were transporting the injured to Aitape Catholic mission hospital. Some 250 people were carried to the hospital on Sunday but at least four times that number remained in the bush and around the Sissano Lagoon, he added.

Brother Theo said that nurses from other Catholic dioceses were on their way to Aitape to relieve the staff there.

"For the survivors of the tidal wave to rebuild their lives, a special plea is made to the Madang community and all the business houses to come to their assistance. The contributions as listed below are urgently needed: Make-shift shelters, water containers, plaster, anti-biotics, cooking utensils, water bottles, blankets, sheets, pillows, mattresses, clothing, hammers, saws, nails etc.,'' the statement said.

Financial contributions can be made through the PNG Banking Corporation account No. 6143787, relief funds, tidal wave, Aitape, Madang branch. All contributions in kind can be delivered to Catholic Archdiocesan headquarters or its outstations within 10 days to be forwarded to the affected areas in Aitape.

See other reports from the Papua New Guinea newspaper, The National, at: http://www.wr.com.au/national/home.htm

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