PNG TSUNAMI AREA SUPPLIES SHORT, SAYS NAROKOBI

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By Peter Bimari

WEWAK, Papua New Guinea (September 15, 1998 - The National)---Almost two months after the Aitape tidal wave disaster and much promised aid, the survivors are still complaining about shortages of basics such as nails, pots, plates, cups, spoons, bedding, women and babies clothes, and salt.

Opposition Leader Bernard Narokobi, who toured the Pou and Ramo care centers near Aitape over the weekend, highlighted these shortages here yesterday.

"Women still have no underpants and bras, children have no baby clothes or napkins, sugar is in short supply and rice is running out," Mr. Narokobi said.

"There are no nails, hammers and there are still very few knives, crow bars for splitting sago palms, coconut scrapers, strainers for straining sago, metal grail for standing pots for cooking, frying pans for frying sago, and very limited mosquito nets," he said.

Mr. Narokobi, on his second visit to the July 17 disaster area, said that Ramo and Pou were prone to epidemics because people were cramped together in small tents.

"Food, especially rice, is exposed to dust, people are sleeping on the ground, and in many tents there are no mats or bedding, exposing people to respiratory diseases," he said, adding that water supplies to these camps were also inadequate.

Mr. Narokobi said concerns were also raised about the curfew hours. Many in both camps complained that it stopped them going out at nights on hunting and fishing expeditions which they frequently did prior to the disaster.

Mr. Narokobi commended the work of assistant controller chief superintendent Vincent Tutu, describing him as a just officer with a positive attitude towards the people at the care centers, applying curfew restrictions with flexibility and taking into account their needs.

He said that the survivors demonstrated a high spirit and morale but it was obvious that many of them wished they were back in their villages.

Mr. Narokobi noted that distribution of the rations to these two care centers were adequate, based on Red Cross criteria developed in Africa.

"This was based on K 2.25 ($US 94 cents) per person per meal per day," Mr. Narokobi said, adding, however, that many thought this was not enough.

He estimated that the cost of feeding the people at the centers would be just above K 700,000 ($US 292,951) a month.

"It appears that it is a very expensive exercise. People may be facing a critical food shortage by December if no new supplies are available," Mr. Narokobi said.

He is also concerned that the wet season is starting and many rivers may be hard to cross to deliver supplies to the care centers which are now accessible by road.

Mr. Narokobi presented a check of K 8,000 (US$ 3,348) to the Aitape Disaster Committee to help meet the needs of mothers and children now at the care centers in Aitape. He gave the check to Balthazar Maketu, the chairman of the Aitape Catholic Diocese Committee.

This is Mr. Narokobi's third contribution. The first was for K 10,000 (US$ 4,185) which came from the Wewak district budget planning priority committee. The second K 10,000 (US$ 4,185) was donated to the Boram General Hospital here to buy food for the disaster patients admitted there.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

IN THE WAKE OF THE AITAPE TSUNAMI DISASTER

By Peter Biles

AITAPE, Papua New Guinea (September 13, 1998 - BBC)---In Papua New Guinea, community members have made visits to the locations of their former homes for the first time since it was destroyed by the giant wave in July.

It is now a place of utter desolation. Yet less than two months ago more than 8,000 people lived along the narrow peninsula.

The people here depended on the sea for their survival. The terrible irony is that it was the sea that took the lives of an estimated 5,000 people and wrecked the lives of those who escaped.

Families are still suffering collective shock from the losses they have suffered.

"I'm the only one of my family left," said one man. "My brother, my sisters, and my cousins are all gone."

Sunday mass is the time to remember the dead. In the mayhem that followed the tidal wave, there was no time for funerals or public grieving. But no one will forget the terror that engulfed them when the wave approached.

One track in the area surrounded by the makeshift graves of those who never made it to safety is patrolled to keep numbers of scavenger dogs down. However, a source of tension has arisen between the refugee villagers and their temporary hosts because the wrong dogs are being shot.

For now, the Worapu people are living on Ramu land and eating Ramu food. The situation is causing great difficulties but the Worapu have nowhere else to go and their leaders cannot agree on what to do. And if the Worapu want to live together in the future they will have to build on land owned by the Ramu - at least for the short term.

The Worapu leaders have been told that they can build a new village - on condition that they change their ways.

The Ramu believe that the Worapu brought the disaster upon themselves by maintaining traditional customs and spiritual beliefs. But the Worapu elders have not given up hope of one day returning to the areas destroyed by the wave. They want to live and fish as they always have done, but the recent disaster and the possibility that it could happen again in the future hang over the Worapu like a shadow.

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