Papua New Guinea says landslide covered more than 2,000 persons, asks for help

By , K24 Digital
On Mon, 27 May, 2024 16:07 | 2 mins read
A Papua New Guinea government official told the United Nations over 2,000 people were believed to have been buried alive by Friday’s landslide and has asked for international help.
A Papua New Guinea government official told the United Nations over 2,000 people were believed to have been buried alive by Friday’s landslide and has asked for international help. PHOTO/APNews

A Papua New Guinea government official has told the United Nations more than 2,000 people were believed to have been buried alive by Friday’s landslide and has formally asked for international help.

The government figure is roughly triple the U.N. estimate of 670 killed by the landslide in the South Pacific island nation’s mountainous interior. The remains of only six people have been recovered so far.

In a letter seen by The Associated Press to the United Nations resident coordinator dated Sunday, the acting director of the South Pacific island nation’s National Disaster Center Luseta Laso Mana said the landslide “buried more than 2000 people alive” and caused “major destruction” at Yambali village in the Enga province.

Estimates of the casualties have varied widely since the disaster occurred, and it was not immediately clear how officials arrived the number of people affected.

A Papua New Guinea government official told the United Nations over 2,000 people were believed to have been buried alive by Friday’s landslide and has asked for international help. PHOTO/AP

The International Organization for Migration, which is working closely with the government and taking a leading role in the international response, has not changed its estimated death toll of 670 released on Sunday, pending new evidence.

We are not able to dispute what the government suggests but we are not able to comment on it,” said Serhan Aktoprak, the chief of the U.N. migrant agency’s mission in Papua New Guinea.

“As time goes in such a massive undertaking, the number will remain fluid,” Aktoprak added.

The death toll of 670 was based on calculations by Yambali village and Enga provincial officials that more than 150 homes had been buried by the landslide. The previous estimate had been 60 homes.

The office of Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape did not respond Monday to a request for an explanation of what the government estimate of 2,000 was based on. Marape has promised to release information about the scale of the destruction and loss of life when it becomes available.

“The situation remains unstable” due to the shifting ground, “posing an ongoing danger to both the rescue teams and survivors alike,” Mana wrote to the United Nations.

An excavator donated by a local builder Sunday became the first piece of heavy earth-moving machinery brought in to help villagers who have been digging with shovels and farming tools to find bodies. Working around the still-shifting debris is treacherous.

Mana and Papua New Guinea’s defence minister, Billy Joseph, flew on Sunday in an Australian military helicopter from the capital of Port Moresby to Yambali, 600 kilometres (370 miles) to the northwest, to gain a firsthand perspective of what is needed.

Mana’s office posted a photo of him at Yambali handing a local official a check for 500,000 kina ($130,000) to buy emergency supplies for the 4,000 displaced survivors.

The purpose of the visit was to decide whether Papua New Guinea’s government needed to officially request more international support.

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