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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 5, 2000 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Sixty people have died and 30 others are in the hospital from alleged water poisoning in Komaio, a village in Papua New Guinea's Gulf Province.

Provincial Governor Riddler Kimave told Parliament during Question Time that these people died because of "water poisoning."

He asked if the Department of Environment and Conservation could immediately carry out an investigation to establish the cause.

Mr. Kimave did not give further details of how the 60 had died, whether from using the water for drinking, cooking or washing.

The 30 affected are receiving medical attention at Port Moresby General Hospital.

Mr. Kimave told Parliament he had previously raised the matter but had not received any answers from the Department of Conservation, whose Minister, Herowa Agiwa, said the problem was more related to health and therefore the Health Department should investigate it.

Mr. Kimave, in a supplementary comment, told Mr. Agiwa that the problem was serious and should not be kicked around between government departments and ministries.

He told the House that the matter should rightly be investigated by the Department of Environment and Conservation to determine the cause of the poisoning.

He said other related authorities should also take part in the investigations to determine the cause of the deaths.

Mr. Agiwa said he was aware of the problem and had asked his department to investigate, but added that the issue should be taken care by the Department of Health and the National Disaster and Emergency Services.

He said the problem was being classed as a disaster. He was aware of the Gulf Provincial Disaster and Emergency Services preparing a report on the deaths and was in turn supposed to advise its headquarters on the outcome of its findings.

Mr. Kimave also wanted an investigation on the silt build-up on the banks of the Kikori River as a result of work on the Kutubu pipeline.

Mr Agiwa promised an investigation on that and also on another question from Middle Fly MP Bitan Kuok on water turning milky in the Fly River, located in his electorate.

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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