State of Emergency Considered in Riot-Torn PNG City

Posted November 7th, 2011 at 6:40 am (UTC-5)
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Authorities in Papua New Guinea say nine people are dead and about 1,000 are homeless after several days of ethnic riots in the nation's second largest city of Lae.

National police commissioner Tom Kulunga is in the port city Monday to determine whether a state of emergency should be declared to quell the violence. However, other officials say the city has been quiet since 120 police were dispatched over the weekend to reinforce Lae's small force.

Residents say the violence began Thursday when a group of youths gathered to complain to authorities about rising crime in a city market.

The youths blame the crime on squatters from the nation's highlands who have established settlements outside the city. Officials say attacks on the camps left about 1,000 people to live in makeshift tents with no food or water.

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said Sunday there is also substantial damage to properties in the city. He said the port is a vital link to several parts of the mountainous country and a shutdown could affect the nation's economy.

Papua New Guinea is deeply impoverished but rich in natural resources and stands to profit from substantial reserves of natural gas.