The National,Monday16 January 2012
THREE people are recovering at the Mt Hagen Provincial Hospital after becoming victims of the Lel River’s fourth tragedy this month.
The Lel River, which flows along the Anglimp and Hagen central boundary in Wurup, Western Highlands, recently burst its banks as a result of the ongoing rainy season.
At midday last Thursday, five people on board a 10-seater Toyota LandCruiser were swept away by the fast flowing current as they were negotiating their way across the river.
Six-Mile community leader Alois Neringa said the five could have drowned if villagers had not been nearby to save them.
He said of the five people, two men and a woman had been taken to the hospital for treatment and were recovering, while the vehicle was towed away with the help of villagers.
Three other incidents occurred at that same location this month.
The first was on Jan 2 when a teenager and a five-year-old drowned, while nine others suffered injuries when the bus they were travelling on was swept away by the river.
The family had been travelling in a 15-seater bus and had been returning from a birthday party.
On Jan 9, a hired 15-seater bus with three passengers on board was washed away but the Lel Bridge culvert held it there until villagers came to their rescue.
next day, a 10-seater Land Cruiser with five passengers on board plunged into the river, with the nearby villagers again the life savers. No one was hurt.
Neringa said a blocked culvert had forced the bridge off which was now causing the accidents, while village gardens and properties were being swept away by the river.
He said they could not transport their crops to the market and at least 6,000 people were being hard hit by the Lel River flooding.
He said school would soon be starting, and parents feared for the lives of their children because they would have to cross the river to attend schools in Wara Wau and Wurup, on the other side of the river.
Neringa said since the river tragedies, no one in authority had visited the area.
He called on the provincial disaster committee, local MP Jamie Maxtone-Graham and Governor Tom Olga to look into the matter.