PNG TSUNAMI WIPED OUT THREE SCHOOLS

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By Cyril Gare

AITAPE, Papua New Guinea (July 28, 1998 - The National)---As authorities prepared to get children back to school yesterday, six school teachers were confirmed dead and three community schools completely were wiped out by the deadly tidal wave which struck the Aitape west coast.

Hundreds of schoolchildren have been swept away by the tsunami which hit the coast on July 17.

While the names of the six school teachers were not disclosed, authorities here said one of them was a vocational school teacher and the others were community school teachers.

Controller of the relief operations, Peter Aigilo, said education authorities in Sandaun province will conduct a survey this week to find out how many students perished in the disaster.

He said a total 1,139 pupils were enrolled at the beginning of the 1998 school year to attend classes at four community schools staffed by 54 teachers.

Twelve of the 54 teachers were teaching 283 pupils at Arop Community School at the time of the disaster. There were 133 girls and 140 boys.

Mr. Aigilo said there were 15 teachers at Malol with a total intake of 314 pupils, made up of 153 girls and 161 boys.

Sissano Community School had 14 teachers and 355 pupils - 185 girls and 170 boys; Warapu had 11 teachers and 187 pupils - 86 girls and 101 boys; and Arop Vocational Center had one teacher with the number of pupils yet to be confirmed.

Most of the people who lost their lives during the disaster were children.

The three community schools which were completely destroyed include one level five school and two level four schools in the worst-affected Sissano and Arop areas.

Two other community schools including a level three school at Yalingi and a level five school at Malol survived the deadly tsunami.

Also lost under the waves were the vocational schools at Sissano and Arop.

The Sissano sub-health center and the clinics in Warapu and Arop were also destroyed.

Assistant controller at the disaster control center here, Garry Baki, confirmed the report, adding that all other schools in the province would begin school this week except those in the destroyed villages.

He has ordered a team into the care center to erect make-shift classrooms so that classes can resume as soon as possible.

"It is important that we occupy the minds of the children by engaging them in classes ... there's plenty on their minds after what they saw and experienced during the tidal wave disaster," Mr. Baki said.

He said Rotary International and other NGO groups had shown interest in rebuilding schools.

Aitape-Lumi district education manager Robert Miroi, however, said a school could only be re-established after authorities confirmed the relocation of the affected villagers.

According to Mr. Baki, villagers preferred to remain at care centers as they were frightened to return and rebuild their villages.

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Comments

I think that schools are very important and it is so upsetting to hear. I also think that it is a big problem that kids and school teachers have to worry about it over in that part of the world and as the tec-tonic plates move it is becoming more of a hazard for the eastern part of the world and as those plates move it is becoming a hazard for closer parts of the middle east and places like Italy witch is becoming a large problem but luckily no person was killed or even hurt for that matter but I think it is a problem that their is no way we can fix it.

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