26 Nov 2002

Fears that deaths in PNG the result of infected river water

6:17 pm on 26 November 2002

A Catholic Bishop from Papua New Guinea's Central Province has called on the government to investigate the deaths of 18 people which he says may be related to them drinking local river water.

Bishop John Ribat says he has read a report from a health worker in Goilala, which states that 18 people have died after their skin had turned yellow.

Bishop Ribat says he has also had people complaining of skin rashes and other ailments after drinking from the Angabanga river.

Bishop Ribat says he travels across the province regularly and he says the state of the river water is linked to the Tolokuma mine which is situated up river from the Goilala and Kairuku villages.

"Before the mine was there, I was flying there. Before, the river looked very clean and good, attractive and so on, but nowadays, you see it's like white stuff all the way down the river...dirty all the time, and that is very visible from the air.....and all the people are saying that there is not much fish in the river, not as much as before."

Bishop John Ribat from the Bereina Diocese.