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Tuesday June 25, 2024

More than 670 estimated dead in Papua New Guinea landslide: UN

Unforgiving terrain, damaged roads and an outbreak of tribal violence nearby have seriously hamstrung efforts to get help into the disaster zone

By AFP
May 27, 2024
People seen at the location of a land slide in Papua New Guineas Enga province. — AFP/file
People seen at the location of a land slide in Papua New Guinea's Enga province. — AFP/file 

PORT MORESBY: More than 670 people are believed to have died after a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea, a UN official told AFP on Sunday as aid workers and villagers braved perilous conditions in their search for survivors.

The once-bustling hillside village in Enga province was almost completely obliterated when the landslide struck in the early hours of Friday morning, burying scores of homes and the people sleeping inside them.

“There are an estimated 150-plus houses now buried,” said UN migration agency representative Serhan Aktoprak, adding that “670-plus people are assumed dead”.

“The situation is terrible with the land still sliding. The water is running and this is creating a massive risk for everyone involved,” added Aktoprak, who oversees teams of emergency workers from Port Moresby.

The unforgiving terrain, damaged roads and an outbreak of tribal violence nearby have seriously hamstrung efforts to get help into the disaster zone.

More than two days after the landslide rumbled down the face of Mount Mungalo, mud-caked villagers in bare feet are still searching for their loved ones using shovels, axes and other makeshift tools.

Disaster worker Omer Mohamud arrived at the site on Sunday, finding deeply “traumatised” villagers using “sticks and spades to discover the trapped bodies”.

“The situation is really horrible, people are in shock and traumatised,” he told AFP.

“The land is still sliding. You can see rocks falling down from the mountain.”

More than 1,000 people have been displaced by the catastrophe, aid agencies estimated, with food gardens and water supplies almost completely wiped out.