More survivors ‘unlikely’ from Papua New Guinea landslide

May 29, 2024
This aerial view taken on May 27, 2024 shows a general view of the area affected by a landslide the region of Maip Mulitaka, in Enga Province, Papua New Guinea. — AFP

PORT MORESBY: It is “very unlikely” more survivors of Papua New Guinea´s deadly landslide will be found, a UN agency warned on Tuesday, as thousands of residents at risk from further slips were warned to evacuate.


Some 2,000 people are feared buried by a massive landslide that entombed a remote highland community in the early hours of May 24.

For days, locals have been heaving through metres-deep churned-up earth, uprooted trees and car-sized boulders in the search for loved ones -- often using little more than their hands and digging sticks.

But hopes are dimming that anyone is still alive underneath the mountain of earth.

“It is not a rescue mission, it is a recovery mission,” Unicef Papua New Guinea´s Niels Kraaier told AFP. “It is very unlikely they will have survived.”

Full-scale rescue and relief efforts have been severely hampered by the site´s remote location, heavy rainfall, nearby tribal violence and the landslide severing the only road link to the outside world.

Early on Tuesday, Enga provincial administrator Sandis Tsaka warned clumps of limestone, dirt and rock were still shearing off the side of Mount Mungalo.

Tsaka told AFP authorities were trying to coordinate a mass evacuation from two districts that had a total population of about 7,900 people.

“The tragedy is still active,” he said. “Every hour you can hear rock breaking -- it is like a bomb or gunshot and the rocks keep falling down.”

More than 1,000 people have already been displaced by the catastrophe, aid agencies have estimated.

But many residents have refused to leave at-risk areas because they were holding out hope of finding friends and family.

Satellite images show the enormous scale of the disaster.

A 600-metre-long smear of yellow and grey debris can be seen cutting through once verdant bushland and severing the region´s only road.