50,000 In PNG’s Milne Bay Affected By Cyclone Ita

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50,000 In PNG’s Milne Bay Affected By Cyclone Ita Massive destruction of gardens, homes, infrastructure confirmed

By Lazarus Bira

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 16, 2014) – More than 50,000 people in Milne Bay were badly affected when Cyclone Ita swept through the province last week, government officials say.

Provincial disaster and emergency co-ordinator Eric Balaria said preliminary reports from outstations confirmed massive destruction to food gardens, homes and infrastructures.

He said no lives were lost but 54,414 people were in need of assistance.

The Category-Three cyclone later struck Northern Queensland in Australia causing millions of dollars of damage.

Balaria said rural communities worst hit were Louisiade, Yeleamba and Bwanabwana in the Rossel and Sudest Islands in the Samarai-Murua electorate.

People in the Murua local level government and Alotau escaped the full brunt of the cyclone.

He said a preliminary survey revealed that 11,542 households were affected, 1,159 houses and 5,390 food gardens destroyed. Also destroyed were some classrooms, an aid post building and a VSAT communication system.

Provincial disaster officials could not give the total estimated cost of the damage yesterday.

[PIR editor’s note: The National also reported that "Milne Bay Governor Titus Philemon has launched a public appeal for donations following the widespread destruction caused by Cyclone Ita last week."]

Balaria said the full extent of the damage was likely to be known in the coming days when reports were received from many islands and locations still out of contact.

"The cyclone caused extensive damage to properties, diplaced people, disrupted education of school kids and the normal life of people in the rural communities," he said.

A report from Bwanabwana said the vessel mv Saga carrying 23 people was missing.

"The provincial disaster office is in the process of arranging relief supplies which include rice, tarpaulins, water containers, medicine and nails which will be distributed to the affected communities in the outstations," Balaria said.

"The immediate needs required by the population are food, water, shelter and medicine.

"Food gardens were destroyed by the flooding, landslides and severe winds in the remote islands. Shelter needs to be addressed in the small islands that felt the full blunt of the storm.

"Increase in water-borne diseases and shortage of clean water require immediate attention."

Balaria said food and water security were the two main term needs in the low lying islands and atolls in the affected zones.

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