Relief to remote PNG islands coming slowly after Cyclone Ita
Relief to remote PNG islands coming slowly after Cyclone Ita.
Relief efforts are underway in the Milne Bay province of Papua New Guinea after Cyclone Ita devastated its remote islands more than a week ago.
But the response so far has taken days as disaster teams have been waiting for a helicopter to review damage and take urgent trauma cases from the islands to Alotau hospital.
Alex Perrottet reports.
An Iroquois helicopter managed to get to Misima island on Thursday to take two people to hospital. It was then due to take drums of supplies to even more remote islands like Sudest and Rossel. Disaster managers already have a good idea of what is needed. For days they've been aware that more than 1000 houses were destroyed and over 5000 food gardens were wiped out. The MP for Samarai-Murua, Gordon Wesley, says they need to get supplies on barges rather than continue with surveillance.
GORDON WESLEY: The assistance are coming very very slow. Now we don't need any further assistance to provide shelter and water and medication and food to the people but they seem to be creating unnecessary costs to sending choppers out there. All they want is the barges or boats out there and deliver.
But the local police disagree. They say food is already on its way and the effort needs to be coordinated. The police commander, Joseph Morehare, says due to communication difficulties, the helicopter will be the only way of knowing exactly what people need, and where.
JOSEPH MOREHARE: The real real issue is to determine what sort of real need is required here, it's not just going out there and trying to feed everybody, no.
He says food is already on its way to some places.
JOSEPH MOREHARE: It's been done right now, it's been done now, there's a boat already going to Wari Island with rations, some bales of rice going to the island now, and that's the immediate need at the moment. Because Wari is considered, or had the previous problem of food shortage, and they're just worsened by the Cyclone Ita.
The Alotau provincial disaster office assistant director, Eric Balaria, says those who help themselves are being looked after. He says the 57 bales of rice on their way to Wari Island were funded by the island itself. Mr Balaria says the mission needs $380,000 US dollars, and part of the delay is because it takes three days for money to clear. He says a big barge with supplies won't leave the port at Milne Bay until Monday.
ERIC BALARIA: The only biggest problem is money but since we have some money made available to us from the National Disaster Centre, I'm utilising that money to purchase some emergency supplies and as well as that I'm also sending out to other islands who can be able to supply local food, including seedlings, so we can help our people.
Eric Balaria says the urgent needs include food, shelter, water, clothes and medicines, because water-borne diseases like dysentery are likely to take hold. Neither Mr Balaria nor police could confirm any deaths from the cyclone, after Gordon Wesley said a woman and her child had died on Sudest Island.
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