15 Apr 2014

Relief work underway in PNG after cyclone, but arriving slowly

2:07 pm on 15 April 2014

Relief work in remote Papua New Guinean islands is set to take weeks after damage caused by Cyclone Ita.

Revised reports say 1,159 houses are destroyed in places as far as Sudest and Rossel islands, and 5,390 food gardens were wiped out.

The co-ordinator of the Milne Bay provincial disaster office, Eric Balaria, says he estimates about 5,000 people are displaced, and there needs to be an emergency medical evacuation from Misima Island.

The islands are hundreds of kilometres away from Milne Bay.

Mr Balaria says an Australian Defence Force Iroquois helicopter should arrive in Alotau tomorrow, and it will survey damage and relief needs over the next few days, but people won't get help until next week.

"Our second phase will be next week and that's when we want to go out and deliver relief supplies to the affected people. And then the third phase will be next week when we will do a review of our operation and do the reconstruction of destroyed houses and all of that."

The Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, and the Speaker, Theo Zurenouoc, have given a total of 107,000 US dollars to help relief efforts in the Milne Bay islands.

A local MP, Gordon Wesley, says the region had earlier been calling for drought assistance and the latest disaster has worsened the lives of villagers.

He is making a public appeal for more help.