PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea --Withered by months of drought, villages in the mountain highlands and on the north coast are now being deluged by rains which are causing floods and landslides. Villagers in the Western and Southern Highlands provinces said heavy rains caused at least two rivers to break their banks, sweeping through houses, washing away animals and possessions and forcing evacuations. Vegetable gardens that villages rely on for food and which had still not been fully re-established after the drought were washed away.
Rising waters from the Waghi River, which during the drought had dried up completely, almost washed away six houses near the villages of Kindeng and Kondopina while their owners slept, Ereman Kaugle, of neighboring Chimbu province, told the Post-Courier newspaper.
``We were asleep in the early morning hours when we heard plates and cups clanging and pigs and a dog in our houses making noises,'' Kaugle told the paper. We were woken up and found that there was water everywhere inside our house.'' He said about six families had been evacuated, and landslides had cut the arterial Highlands Highway.
The Halgamag river near Wewak on the nation's north coast also burst its banks, washing away roads on which poor villagers relied to bring cash crops from gardens to market, the Nation newspaper reported. The flood damage follows the apparent break of the worst drought in 100 years.
Up to one quarter of the nation's 4 million people faced serious food shortages at the height of the drought, and 52,000 villagers in remote regions still face starvation without emergency food delivered by Australian and Papua New Guinea armed forces. Unconfirmed reports say 500 people have died because of the drought, although aid agencies say most deaths are attributable to poor health conditions exacerbated by lack of food.
Monsoonal rains are now falling on many parts of the country, allowing replanting of subsistence crops, although many vegetables will not be ready to eat for months. AP
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