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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 8) - More than 16,000 people in Papua New Guinea’s Western Highlands are homeless and facing severe food shortages after the Mombol River flooded and damaged gardens following a heavy downpour on Tuesday night.

The flooding occurred in Banz in the North Wahgi electorate, affecting three sub tribes -- Andkapng, Bambilnge and Konjapkanem -- living along the banks of the river. Gika Tol, who lost almost everything in the flood, said at the scene late yesterday it was an unexpected disaster that surprised many people.

They were left speechless, he said.

Mr. Tol said on Tuesday afternoon a heavy downpour with strong winds forced the Mombol to flood and change its course to different routes. He said the people were surprised because most of them were at the nearby Banz town and those in the gardens were helpless because the river damaged everything.

Tol said the river damaged food gardens, coffee trees, uprooted some plants and killed some domestic animals but no lives were lost. He said the people were in a state of shock because they had not experienced such a disaster in the past. Tol said they would submit a report to the district disaster officer to seek assistance from the provincial government and the national disaster office.

He said at least 22 buildings were washed away, including an Evangelical Brotherhood Church (EBC), a three-day-old poultry house and one piggery house. Tol said most of the people had been forced out and had moved to neighboring villages.

He said the people were now appealing to the authorities for relief supplies.

Officers from the Western Highlands provincial disaster office visited the site and described it as the worst disaster in the area.

Acting provincial disaster coordinator Daniel Nop Amban who visited the site said the disaster was a major one because it had damaged a lot of the people’s properties.

He said they had given out forms to the people to fill in so assistance would be sought speedily.

North Wahgi MP Benjamin Mul, who was also there to witness the disaster, said there were no funds available for relief supplies but added he would finalize a report to the national disaster office to help the people.

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