71 UNKNOWN PEOPLE ROW ASHORE IN WEST NEW BRITAIN

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By Joanna Guiop

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 25, 1999 - The National)---A total of 71 people -- 68 men and three women -- who possibly are survivors of a Taiwan ship that sank, came ashore at Gasmata in West New Britain province in dinghies Wednesday, according to provincial government sources in Rabaul.

According to the sources, the illegal emigrants were probably on their way to Australia or New Zealand before they rowed ashore at Gasmata, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Rabaul.

A bigger vessel, believed to have ferried the emigrants as far as PNG, was located sunk off Kalakin village, 18 kilometers (10.8 miles) west of Gasmata Station.

The occupants of the vessel came ashore in lifeboats, the local people said.

The President of the Gasmata Council and West New Britain Acting Deputy Governor, Mr. Isidore Peli, said the emigrants have been taken to Gasmata Logging Camp, owned by the local people, and are being taken care of.

Mr. Peli said he is concerned about their welfare and has contacted a medical officer and authorities in Rabaul to attend to their immediate needs.

Mr. Peli said he was contacted via radio yesterday morning by government authorities and told that the boat people may be survivors of a Taiwanese fishing vessel that sank between Philippine and Papua New Guinea waters last Sunday.

However, Mr. Peli said he has a strong suspicion that women are not allowed on a fishing vessel and these people could be running away from somewhere.

The emigrants hid themselves in the bushes when the local people attempted to help them, a local source who wanted to remain anonymous told The National.

According to Mr. Peli, local authorities are waiting for the proper government agencies to arrive to interview the emigrants.

The Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday acknowledged being aware of the group's arrival but provided no additional information.

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

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