OILY SEA, IGNITING ROCKS NEW PROBLEM IN WEST NEW BRITAIN

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PORT MORESBY, Papua new Guinea (August 27, 2002 - NBC/PINA Nius Online)---Papua New Guinea's volcano-hit West New Britain now is faced with another natural disaster, this time an oily substance in the sea and floating rocks that ignite.

As the provincial administration deals with the Mount Pago volcano eruption crisis, the oily substance is said to be blanketing the coastline in the Kandrian District.

A report to the Provincial Administration by Nurse Joanna Karau, of Pililo Health Center, said bubbles of the oily substance rose from the seabed and spread.

Another report said the igniting rocks contain phosphorus. They ignite when they float to the surface and come in contact with oxygen and sunlight.

They are considered dangerous as they can burn the skin.

The oily substance is said to be blanketing the coastline.

Following inspections by health, geological and volcano officials from the provincial government, a meeting was held with local village elders, who have agreed to relocate their village.

Nearly 30 children and adults had already developed diarrhea and were taken to hospital.

They became sick after drinking water from the main water source, which is also affected by the oily substance.

Marine life, including crabs and fish, have also died.

Once the people relocate, scientists from different fields will be asked to conduct investigations in the area.

New Britain, an island 600 kilometers (360 miles) long but never more than 80 kilometers (48 miles) wide, is known for its volcanoes. Its main town, Rabaul, was badly damaged in 1994 by a major eruption.

Meanwhile, the West New Britain Provincial administration said the National Government's allocation of Kina 1.5 million (US$ 383,550) for the people who fled the Mount Pago eruption is not enough to take care of all their needs.

Provincial Administrator and Chairman of the Provincial Disaster Committee William Padio said they need more to take care of the 15,000 people now living in care centers.

Mr. Padio said the affected people will still need to be cared for after they are sent home because of damage to their food crops. It would still take some months before their food gardens are ready for harvesting again, he said.

The Provincial Administrator said the island's main airport, Hoskin Airport, is still closed and they are concentrating on using the old Talasea Airport.

Mr. Padio said the assistance from the Japanese Government was received when a Papua New Guinea Defense Force aircraft flew in generators, mosquito nets, blankets and tents on Sunday.

He said six Japanese officers were also at hand to assess the situation.

With the monsoon season setting in, Mr. Padio said six care centers in lower lying areas will have to be moved to higher elevations.

Mr. Padio said it cannot be determined yet whether the activities of Mount Pago are slowing down, adding that officials are looking at the possibility of relocating the people from Hoskins to other locations.

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

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