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5 killed in massive landslide in Papua New Guinea, toll likely to climb

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Emergency teams pulled three bodies from the rubble of Papua New Guinea’s massive landslide, the UN said on Sunday, warning the death toll of five would likely rise in the disaster where hundreds are feared dead.

Media in the Pacific nation north of Australia have said Friday’s landslide buried more than 300 people and over 1,100 houses when it levelled Kaokalam village in Enga Province, about 600 km (370 miles) northwest of the capital Port Moresby.

More than six villages have been impacted by the landslide in the province’s Mulitaka region, said Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The UN migration agency IOM said more than 100 houses, an elementary school, small businesses and stalls, a guesthouse, and a petrol station were buried.

The death toll stood at five as of Saturday night, IOM’s chief of mission in Papua New Guinea, Serhan Aktoprak, said in a statement on Sunday, adding that the “number of injured and missing are still not known”.

The UN’s Papua New Guinea office said three bodies were retrieved from an area where 50 to 60 homes had been destroyed, while six people, including a child, were pulled from rubble alive.

It said many of those buried were yet to be located as search and rescue efforts continued in the mountainous area of the country, which shares the island of New Guinea with Indonesia.

Aid group CARE Australia said late on Saturday that nearly 4,000 people lived in the impact zone but the number affected was probably higher as the area is “a place of refuge for those displaced by conflicts” in nearby areas.

Over 1,100 houses has been damage due to the massive landslide.
The massive landslide damaged over 1,100 houses. (Photo: Reuters)

At least 26 men were killed in Enga Province in February in an ambush amid tribal violence that prompted Prime Minister James Marape to give arrest powers to the country’s military.

The landslide left debris up to 8 metres (25 feet) deep across 200 square km (80 square miles), cutting off road access and making relief efforts difficult, CARE said. Helicopters were the only way to reach the area, the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported.

Aid groups have said more homes could be at risk if the landslide continues down the mountain, as the terrain remains unstable.

Marape has said disaster officials, the Defence Force and the Department of Works and Highways were assisting with relief and recovery efforts.

Social media footage posted by villager Ninga Role showed people clambering over rocks, uprooted trees and mounds of dirt searching for survivors. Women could be heard weeping in the background.

Published By:

Vadapalli Nithin Kumar

Published On:

May 26, 2024