Five days after getting out the first news to the world of Papua New Guinea’s catastrophic tidal wave – the tsunami that killed more than 2000 people in and around the Sissino Lagoon west of Aitape in July 1998 – I broke down uncontrollably and wept. Sitting with my hands on my knees and my head bowed in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC’s) Port Moresby radio studio, I cried solidly for, I suspect, at least five minutes. I was alone. It was shortly after half past six on a Thursday morning, and I had just completed a regular weekly, 10-minute chat with Radio Australia’s early morning Pacific Beat program. I was exhausted by then, having covered the tsunami tragedy for ABC Radio, ABC Television and Radio Australia virtually non-stop since the previous Saturday morning. What triggered the sudden and, to me, surprising outpouring of emotion was a final question about how the survivors were coping, having lost so many and so much. I stumbled through the answer and burst into tears after switching the microphone off.
Recommended CitationDorney, S., Covering catastrophe in Papua New Guinea, Asia Pacific Media Educator, 7, 1999, 137-142.