The National, Wednesday 28th December 2011
By BOSORINA ROBBY
THREE men are believed dead after inhaling fuel fumes on a logging company’s barge on Monday.
The men were from Seleo Island, West Sepik, and were aged between 25 and 40 years.
It is believed they were trying to steal fuel from the barge. Their bodies are yet to be retrieved from the barge.
Benstead Taru, the Seleo Island landowner group Tolou Holdings Ltd director, said two of the men had been aboard the barge to steal fuel while the third was a passing fisherman.
Taru said the first man had opened the lid to the fuel tank when he was allegedly overcome by the strong fumes.
“He then fell into the tank and we assumed he may have died instantly,” Taru said.
“The accomplice, on seeing his friend fall, went to see if he could help but was struck down by the fumes as well and fell into the tank where we all think he died as well.
“The third one was a fisherman who happened to see two people go into the barge and curiosity may have caused him to investigate, where he met the same fate,” he said.
Taru said as of Monday night, there were three dead men soaked in fuel inside the fuel barge belonging to Malaysian logging company, Samas International Ltd.
He said the police had been alerted about the incident and were working to cut open the fuel barge so they could retrieve the bodies.
“The directors of Tolou Holdings are liaising with the police and the company to assist with the retrieval of the bodies,” he said.
Samas International Ltd is the developer of Aitape Agri Forest project and Aitape Lumi Consolidated FMA project, since 2006.
They entered into an agreement with Tolou Holdings Ltd to use Seleu Island as an offshore log loading anchorage facility.
Taru said the stealing of fuel from the company’s fuel vessels was an ongoing problem between the islanders and the company.
He said the thefts stemmed from issues regarding non-payment of logging levy fees, non-compliance with agreements and other logging-related issues.
He said since the company began logging on Aitape, the impacted areas around the site had not been benefitting from it and that had led to problems.