4 May 2006

PNG leader predicts atoll evacuations because of food shortage

3:59 pm on 4 May 2006

The Bougainville Minister for Atolls and Fisheries in Papua New Guinea says a food shortage on the outer islands of the province will force some people to be relocated.

Taehu Pais has just returned from a fact-finding mission to the Carteret, Mortlock, Tasman and Nuguria islands which were hit by high tides nearly two months ago.

The tides destroyed food crops and gardens that the locals rely on for food.

Mr Pais says nearly two tonnes of rice that was sent to the more than 4-thousand islanders has now been used and locals are surviving on dried coconut and what fish they can catch.

He says up to 50 people at a time should be relocated to the mainland, although he says not everybody will be moved.

"As long as we lessen the number, the population of the people on the atolls, like some coming to the mainland, so that the government cannot continue to spend money on relief supplies but so that they themselves can help themselves by living on the mainland and doing their own thing."

Mr Pais says he has recommended that the government send food supplies within the fortnight.