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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 3) - The Papua New Guinea Defense Force has sent a team of soldiers to Madang province over the weekend to find out how the force could help in the resettling of refugees.

About 9,000 people are being relocated from Manam Island to the mainland in Madang because of continuing dangers from the Manam volcano.

PNGDF public relations officer Thomas Kilala said representatives of the National Disaster Management Office on Wednesday met PNGDF chief of operations, Navy Captain Ale Ale, for a briefing on the Manam disaster relief operations. After the briefing, Captain Ale sent a reconnaissance team of four soldiers to Madang over the weekend to do an assessment of the situation, Kilala said.

He said once they have briefed the PNGDF authorities on their findings, at least 50 soldiers would be deployed on the ground this week to help.

A PNGDF patrol boat, the HMPNGS Dregger, left Lombrum naval base in Manus on Thursday for Madang to assist in the exercise.

Kilala said the PNGDF operations could last for about six months and that the deployed soldiers would be working with the district and provincial authorities in coordinating the disaster operations.

January 4, 2005

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