Rioters have burned down the homes of thousands of people in an ethnic clash in Papua New Guinea's second-largest city, killing at least six people, leaving thousands homeless and turning the city of Lae eerily silent.
Dominic Evere, a government research officer, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the rioting began Thursday and was sparked by the alleged rape of a young woman. He said locals burned down the homes of people who moved into the city of about 190,000 from the highlands of the Pacific island nation.
"The young people got organized after the young lady got raped in broad daylight," Evere said. "They said, 'Enough is enough.'"
Evere said it took until Sunday for police to restore an uneasy calm, after 100 extra officers were brought in from the capital, Port Moresby, and the highlands to help local forces. The Papua New Guinea Post-Courier described Lae as a "ghost town" following the riots.
The port town of Lae is an important industrial hub in a country where mining is booming but unemployment and crime remain high. Evere said tensions there had been building for months as more job seekers poured into the city and lawlessness increased.
Evere said that aside from those killed, 26 people were injured in the rioting, with some suffering gunshot wounds. He said the situation remained "very, very tense" but that the ethnic groups were trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution.
The Post-Courier reported that Prime Minister Peter O'Neill is calling on Lae's community and ethnic leaders to help return the city to normal as soon as possible.