Eight die from drought/frost disaster

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Eight people are confirmed to have died in the Highlands and Morobe as a result of the long dry spell and frost in Papua New Guinea.

These include five children and an elderly man in Chimbu and two in Morobe Province. Two other children are reported to have died in Hela Province.

The Government's Chief Secretary, Sir Manasupe Zurenuoc, has received the assessment reports on the drought on Mt Wilhelm, Chimbu Province and frost disaster in Tambul-Nebilyer, Western Highlands Province.

He says 56,000 people in Tambul-Nebilyer are in urgent need of relief assistance.

District Administrator, Douglas Lingawa says the two major rivers Kagul and Ambonga have dropped to a severe drying level.

He says frost has damaged all crops like breadfruit, cabbages and broccoli.

Livestock such as pigs and fish are also threatened.

Sir Manasupe has urged all disaster-hit provinces and districts to provide an assessment report of the population affected and the scale of the damages caused by the disaster so the government can help.

The National Agricultural Research Institute predicted this disaster in 2009, saying the temperature in Tambul-Nebilyer is likely to drop to -1 degree celcius in the coming weeks.

According to the ABC, regional weather emergencies like the drought and frost currently impacting PNG and drought in Solomon Islands, are being put down to the increasing impact of the latest El Nino weather pattern.

It’s being called, by a NASA Scientist, a potential Godzilla El Nino, that could yet turn out to be the strongest in recorded history.

Mike Elphat of the United States Climate Prediction Center said, a monster El Nino is a dramatic description but the event is definitely strengthening.

“There is a most more concrete examples of what climate change is doing and to try to link an El Nino like this and you know, we had a very big El Nino in 97/98.There was a big one in 1982/83 so you know I certainly hope that this particular El Nino doesn't get drag into the Climate Change droughts”.

Meanwhile, PNG National Disaster Centre says it will deploy teams to the Highlands region to check the areas affected by El Nino by early next week.

Director Martin Mose told a media briefing in Port Moresby there will be four teams of strategic partner authorities that should have a report to verify the situation on ground. This is so that the NDC can coordinate and spend resources accordingly to assist the people in need.

He also said the National Disaster Centre has requested K5 million (US$1.7 million) from the National Government as response to the heavily affected Highlands region.

With reports of lives being lost in the Highlands due to the harsh conditions of El Nino, the NDC intends to utilise the K5 million as a response measure to assist people in the four badly affected Highlands Provinces.

“We are now deploying; we cannot wait for more lives to be lost. Really it is a wakeup call for the provincial administration to start organising themselves," the disaster centre director said.

“It is better that NDC verifies the reports that were sent in by provinces so that we know exactly what is required and what’s not. So that is why it’s important our teams go and verify because at the end of the day, it is the taxpayers’ money going down so we want to see that those monies are spent wisely.”

He said Chimbu was the first Highlands Province to send in its report on the El Niño.

Mose clarified that so far the NDC has not set a proper budget yet for the El Nino disaster but will do so as soon as reports are compiled by the assessment teams.