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Rioting over the weekend brings misery, massive property damage

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Nov. 7, 2011) – More than a thousand people have been left homeless following ethnic violence in Papua New Guinea’s second biggest city, Lae.

PNG police commissioner Tom Kulunga, who is in Lae to assess whether a state of emergency should be declared, says many homes in the outer-Lae township of Bumayong have been destroyed following two days of riots.

A police spokesperson, Superintendent Dominic Kakas, says 1,000 people from the Highlands have been left homeless after their properties were destroyed by fire. Most are staying outside a government military facility on the outskirts of Lae.

Kakas says police are appealing to aid agencies to help feed the villagers.

Lae was gripped by two days of riots when youths began a rampage on Thursday.

They were protesting at rising crime but later clashed with Highlanders, with nine people killed in the violence.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has said he’s considering declaring a state of emergency if the violence doesn’t stop, and says the government could be forced to declare virtual martial law.

[PIR editor’s note: Prime Minister O'Neil has called on all leaders and communities to end violence and bring the city of Lae "to normalcy as soon as possible." The Morobe Provincial government has since declared Lae City, along with other parts of separate districts in Morobe, as fighting zones for three months as police and support personnel are being flown in to Lae to provide peacekeeping.]

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