670 feared covered under Papua landslide

By , K24 Digital
On Sun, 26 May, 2024 14:13 | 2 mins read
Papua New Guinea
Helpers are trying to rescue people buried by the landslide. PHOTO/Reuters

About 670 people are estimated to be buried under a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea, a UN official says.

The head of the International Organization for Migration in Papua New Guinea, Serhan Aktoprak, said the impact of Friday's landslide in the country's isolated Enga province was greater than initially thought.

"There are an estimated 150-plus houses now buried," Mr Aktoprak said.

The affected areas are in the highlands of Enga, in the north of the island nation in the southwest Pacific.

Mr Aktoprak said rescuers were at risk because "the land still sliding".

"The water is running and this is creating a massive risk for everyone involved," he said.

There are nearly 4,000 people living in the area hit by the landslide.

But Care Australia, the humanitarian agency which is helping with relief efforts, warned that the number affected was "likely to be higher" because of an influx of people escaping tribal conflicts in neighbouring areas.

BBC reports that at least 1,000 people have been displaced as a result of the disaster. Mr Aktoprak said gardens that had grown food and water supplies were almost completely wiped out.

Papua landslide

The landslide happened at around 03:00 local time on Friday (17:00 GMT on Thursday), when people were more likely to be sleeping.

"We still don’t know the exact number of fatalities from the landslide, and may not know for some time," said a spokesperson for Care Australia.

"However, the time that the landslide occurred suggests that the death toll will rise."

Mr Aktoprak said helpers were using any means necessary to recover victims: "People are using digging sticks, spades, large agricultural forks to remove the bodies buried under the soil."

By Sunday, just five bodies had been recovered alongside the partial remains of another.

Debris from the landslide, which includes large boulders, trees and displaced soil, is up to 8 meters (26ft) deep in some areas.

There is only one highway into Enga Province and Care Australia said debris had fallen across large swatches of the road, limiting access to the rescue site.

AFP, the news agency, said that large machinery is expected to arrive on Sunday.

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