FLOODING FORCES PNG VILLAGERS TO HIGHER GROUND

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Big waves and high tides do heavy damage along Oro coastline

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 12, 2009) – Most villagers along the coast of Oro Province are abandoning their homes for higher ground since Friday after witnessing swelling seas and high tides which continue to hit.

Unconfirmed reports received from the province yesterday indicated several houses had been washed away.

The National Disaster Centre could not confirm the reports as information coming in from the province was sketchy.

Several callers who braved the rising swells to reach Popondetta in dinghies said yesterday that Ope and Katuna villages were the worst affected in the Ambasi area.

Attempts were made to contact the provincial disaster office, hospital and police for confirmation on the current situation on the ground in the province but were unsuccessful yesterday.

However, one caller said the sea level was continuing to rise, forcing people to take refuge on higher ground.

Another caller said they had heard about the same situation that had occurred along the coasts of New Ireland, Manus, East Sepik, West Sepik, Madang, Morobe, and Bougainville in the last couple of weeks and now they were witnessing the unusual sea swells on their own coastline.

"For Oro Province, we have just come out of one of the worst disasters in the country’s history and while we are trying to rebuild and rehabilitate our lives, we are now experiencing another phenomenon," the caller said.

The NDS director Martin Mose was contacted yesterday but he was not aware of the situation in the province. He was trying to reach the provincial disaster centre for reports.

Mr Mose said the warnings on the swelling seas and king tides were current so people should be alerted and organise to move to higher grounds.

"Older people and those disabled people should be priority for the villagers to make sure they are safe before the situation gets worse ... we must be supportive," Mose said.

The risk of sea swells in maritime provinces of Mamose and New Guinea Islands regions has subsided over the last 48 hours and the situation does not warrant a threat any longer.

However, the National Disaster Services said the residents of communities in the Papuan coastal region are warned of the threat of king tides and strong winds.

This was conveyed to the National Disaster Centre yesterday morning in a bulletin from the acting director of the National Weather Service Samuel Maiha.

In a statement yesterday the NDS said king tides were expected over the Papuan coasts from January 9 to 14. This situation has been brought about by a trough (a region of low pressure) located along about 16 degrees south of the Equator, the office said.

The office advised that the spring tides produce higher high tides and lower low tides and king tides was often used to describe an unusually high spring tide.

Mr Maiha said a depression (low pressure system) is associated with bad weather including sea swells, rainfall, and in some cases, strong winds while a "high pressure system" is associated with fine weather.

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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