PNG death toll rising, some injuries very serious

1:44 pm on 28 October 2022

The death toll in the Papua New Guinea massacre has risen to 24, with more than 100 people injured.

The outbreak of violence occurred on Monday on Kiriwina Island, northeast of Port Moresby apparently triggered by a death at a football match a few weeks earlier.

The only practising doctor on the Island, Giyodobu Tosiyeru, is in the provincial capital, Alotau, from where he is trying to co-ordinate care for the injured by phone.

Alotau is about a 20-hour boat ride from the Island.

He said three medic camps have been set up in different areas across the island.

The main camp is in Oiyabia, a neighbouring village of Losuia town on the United Church Mission Grounds.

"And they've actually managed about 128 minor injuries, cuts and lacerations in that location, there are 12 major injuries or seriously injured but stable," Dr Tosiyeru said.

The other two camps are at Obweriya, north Kiriwina, and at Sinaketa, south Kiriwina, which are managing about 15 cases between them.

People on the island are living in fear of renewed violence and recriminations.

Many people on Kiriwina Island were injured in the violence

Photo: RNZ Pacific/Scott Waide

'A stressful exercise'

Some of the injured have suffered major blood loss and will likely need to be transferred to a hospital on the mainland in Alotau, Dr Tosiyeru said.

He said it is a stressful exercise, as resources are strained.

"The district health services allocated three teams to attend to the victims, particularly those who have sustained injuries.

"This is to kind of segregate those warring factions so that there is no tension where the management is," he said.

Losuia Health Centre was turning away patients injured in the violence so it can maintain its routine health services, Dr Tosiyeru said.

"We only have very few nurses, about eight nurses."

Details on the warring factions

The 'two tribes' people have been referring to are Kuboma and Kulumata.

Kiriwina Island Area Manager, Nelson Tauyuwada said Kuboma means inland people, particularly from villages within the Kuboma zones, and Kulumata means coastal people from villages within the Kulumata zones.

This is not so much a tribal clash but a conflict between two different zones made up of wards or villages, Tauyuwada said.

Dr Tosiyeru said that, in Kavataria, six people died, in Yalaka village eight are dead, Bwetalu village six, Luya village one, Wabutuma two and Gumlababa one death.

RNZ Pacific has tried to call the prime minister James Marape for comment, but he is yet to respond.

New Zealand's Acting Prime Minister said, if asked, New Zealand would send help to Papua New Guinea.

Grant Robertson said New Zealand doesn't have much information at the moment.

"Local church leaders are trying to broker some kind of peace. We've certainly sought information from out high commissioner in PNG.

"There's not been any requests that I'm aware of for assistance at this stage but we stand ready to support our Pacific neighbours in whatever they're facing."