TOURING bushfire-ravaged parts of Victoria yesterday, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare was reminded of the damage wreaked by tsunamis in his own country.
In Kinglake under leaden skies, he recalled returning to his province, East Sepik, after huge waves devastated the region late last year.
"Today I felt like I did when I went to my home village Karau after the tsunami hit. I felt sad. You cannot help feel that. You feel for the people."
Sir Michael is the first foreign head of state to visit Victoria's devastated regions since the Black Saturday fires in February.
He met CFA volunteers, offering them condolences and congratulating them on their efforts in circumstances he described as "too difficult".
"Sometimes, there is nothing you can do about nature," he said. "Nature gives us wonderful things, but sometimes it can destroy things too."
Sir Michael toured Victoria's Emergency Co-ordination Centre in Melbourne yesterday morning, before driving to Kinglake where he saw some of the fires' worst devastation.
Kinglake was bustling with building activity, with reconstruction work focused on the town centre and on rebuilding schools.
Papua New Guinea contributed $2 million for victims of Victoria's bushfires and Queensland's floods. A Red Cross collection taken up in the country - where the average annual income is just $900 - raised an additional $60,000.
Sir Michael said yesterday it was a chance to repay Australia for its help in earlier PNG disasters.
"Very often when there are bad times in Papua New Guinea, when there are cyclones or floods, Australia is there to assist PNG. At times like these, we need to support each other. We need to help where we can."