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Sunday, September 13, 1998 Published at 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Tsunami victims want to go home

Returning to Papua New Guinea's devastated coast

The BBC's Peter Biles reports on the situation in Papua New Guinea in the wake of the tsunami disaster:

Peter Biles reports on the aftermath of the tsunami disaster
In Papua New Guinea, community members have made visits to the locations of their former homes for the first time since it was destroyed by the giant wave in July.

[ image: Once fertile lagoons now breeding grouunds for disease]
Once fertile lagoons now breeding grouunds for disease
It is now a place of utter desolation. Yet less than two months ago, more than 8,000 people lived along the narrow peninsula.

The people here depended on the sea for their survival - the terrible irony is that it was the sea that took the lives of an estimated 5,000 people, and wrecked the lives of those who escaped.

Families are still suffering collective shock from the losses they have suffered.

"I'm the only one of my family left," said one man. "My brother, my sisters and my cousins are all gone."

[ image: All is not well between the refugees and their hosts]
All is not well between the refugees and their hosts
Sunday mass is the time to remember the dead. In the mayhem that followed the tidal wave, there was no time for funerals or public grieving.

But no-one will forget the terror that engulfed them when the wave approached.

One track in the area, surrounded by the makeshift graves of those who never made it to safety, is patrolled to keep numbers of scavenger dogs down.

However, a source of tension has arisen between the refugee villagers and their temporary hosts because the wrong dogs are being shot.

[ image: Families are still in shock from the human losses]
Families are still in shock from the human losses
For now, the Worapu people are living on Ramu land and eating Ramu food. The situation is causing great difficulties, but the Worapu have nowhere else to go and their leaders cannot agree on what to do.

And if the Worapu want to live together in the future they will have to build on land owned by the Ramu - at least for the short term.

The Worapu leaders have been told that they can build a new village - on condition that they change their ways.

The Ramu believe that the Worapu brought the disaster upon themselves by maintaining traditional customs and spiritual beliefs.

But the Worapu elders have not given up hope of one day returning to the areas destroyed by the wave.

They want to live and fish as they always have done, but the recent disaster and the possibility that it could happen again in the future hang over the Worapu like a shadow.

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