20 Nov 2007

Thousands are homeless in PNG as authorities struggle to get assistance to people

9:11 am on 20 November 2007

Thousands are homeless in Papua New Guinea as authorities struggle to cope with the aftermath of a tropical cyclone there.

A state of emergency has been declared in the flood-ravaged Oro Province following widespread destruction from tropical cyclone Guba.

Reports say 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 the flooding has affected about 145,000 people.

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, says feeding the tens of thousands of displaced people is going to be massive exercise.

"At the moment we have only two helicopters trying to take rice, flour and some water to some of the areas severely affected by the flood, but the entire province has been affected by the rains and the flooding, so it's a very, very massive exercise."