19 Nov 2007

71 confirmed dead, 54 missing after massive flooding in PNG's Oro Province

8:37 pm on 19 November 2007

A state of emergency has been declared in Papua New Guinea's flood-ravaged Oro Province following widespread destruction and reports that more than 70 people died after being swept away.

PNG's cabinet has also approved the use of the PNG Defence Force for relief operations and around 16 million US dollars to assist flood victims.

The Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare says he is saddened by the enormity of the disaster.

Oro Province is facing a massive repair bill after thousands of houses, some schools and aid posts, and dozens of key bridges and roads were washed away by the rain associated with tropical cyclone Guba.

Health officials have warned of outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera, dysentery and malaria due to a lack of clean drinking water.

A police spokesman, David Terry, speaking from the provincial capital, Popondetta on behalf of the Governor, Suckling Tamanabae, says a massive relief operation is needed because of the scale of the disaster across the entire province.

He says there are 71 confirmed deaths but another 54 people are missing.

"But as the days go by we will get more information on the exact casualties, the exact number of people who have died and the exact amount of destruction caused by the floods. At this point in time, as I said, it is confirmed that 71 people have died and we have officers out in the districts who are still trying to collect information to get a progressive tally on how many people have died or loss their lives so far."