Page last updated at 11:57 GMT, Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Huge tidal waves smash into PNG


More than 400 people have been made homeless by huge tidal waves which hit the northern coastal region of Papua New Guinea, reports say.

The waves smashed into dozens of villages and towns on Tuesday, local newspapers said.

Homes were destroyed and a number of businesses and a hospital were flooded.

No casualties have been reported so far, but officials said communication with some of PNG's outlying islands remained difficult.

Heavy flooding

Tuesday's huge waves - reportedly caused by tidal surges - lashed an 800km (500 mile) stretch along PNG's northern coastline.

Coastal towns such as Wewak and the nearby island of New Ireland were particularly hard hit and sea levels rose by several feet, reports said.

The onslaught lasted for six hours, reported PNG newspaper The National, creating "pools as deep as two metres, sending sediment and debris flooding into homes and businesses".

Local authorities sent emergency messages to the national government in the capital Port Moresby for assistance with the relief operation.

A huge earthquake off PNG's northern coast in 1998 triggered a 16m-high tsunami that devastated the seaside town of Aitape and killed more than 2,000 people.

Communications across PNG are basic, and many tribes in the country's isolated areas have little contact with each other, let alone the outside world.

Some 80% of the country's population live in rural areas with few or no facilities.

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