Papua New Guinea: More than 2,000 people buried alive in landslide – as ‘major destruction’ hampers rescue efforts | World News

More than 2,000 individuals have been entombed by a substantial landslide in northern Papua New Guinea, the country’s disaster authority has stated. The landslide decimated the elevated Kaokalam hamlet in Enga Province – roughly 370 miles (600km) northwest of the capital Port Moresby.
The catastrophe struck the Pacific nation at approximately 3am local time on Friday (6pm on Thursday UK time), and the United Nations had earlier indicated it approximated 670 individuals had perished. Local officials had initially estimated the number of fatalities at 100 or more.

The Papua New Guinea national disaster center reported that the landslide had entombed more than 2,000 individuals alive. “The landslide buried more than 2,000 people alive and caused substantial damage to structures, food gardens and significantly impacted the economic lifeline of the nation,” an official from the national disaster center stated in a correspondence to the United Nations.
Previously, Serhan Aktoprak, leader of the United NationsInternational Organisation for Migration mission on the island nation, indicated that the figure of 670 fatalities was based on calculations by local officials that more than 150 houses had been entombed. The former estimation was 60 houses. “They are estimating that more than 670 people [are] under the soil at the moment,” he mentioned. However, Mr. Aktoprak added: “Hopes to extricate individuals alive from the debris have now faded.” More than 4,000 individuals were likely impacted by the disaster, humanitarian organization CARE Australia stated earlier.
It reported the area was “a sanctuary for those displaced by [nearby] conflicts”.

Yambali was among the villages affected. Pic: Mohamud Omer/International Organisation for Migration via AP

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Yambali was among the villages affected. Pic: Mohamud Omer/International Organisation for Migration via AP

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The report emerges as Australia announced it was preparing to dispatch aircraft and other resources to assist at the landslide site. Severe weather and persistent rain during the night in the South Pacific nation’s hilly area have raised new concerns that the debris could tum perilous and unstable.

Slim likelihood of discovering more survivors

Nicole Johnston

Asia correspondent
@nicole_reporter

It’s proving exceedingly challenging for rescue teams to access the communities impacted by the landslide which struck in the early hours of Friday when most individuals would have been sleeping.
The region is isolated, mountainous and largely underdeveloped.
The latest visuals from the location depict local inhabitants resorting to using basic shovels and sticks to attempt to remove the mud burying homes.
The primary access route has also been compromised, so teams are attempting to clear that to facilitate essential aid in reaching the site.
Helicopter crews, including military personnel from one of Papua New Guinea‘s nearest allies, Australia, are also striving to reach the location from the capital Port Moresby.
The scenario is further complicated by tribal disputes which frequently escalate into violence, including clashes that occurred over the weekend.
A landslide of this magnitude would be a calamity in any nation but for Papua New Guinea, this is an absolute catastrophe, with minimal prospects of uncovering more survivors.

Australian defense minister Richard Marles stated that officials have been in discussion with their Papua New Guinea counterparts since the disaster. “The precise nature of the assistance that we will provide will unfold over the forthcoming days,” Mr. Marles conveyed to the ABC. “We’ve got, obviously, airlift capacity to transport people there. There might be additional resources that we can mobilize regarding the search and rescue and all of that we are deliberating with Papua New Guinea now.” Papua New Guinea is Australia‘s nearest neighbor and Australia has been the most generous contributor of foreign aid to its previous colony, which gained independence in 1975.

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China has announced it will extend assistance for disaster relief and post-disaster rebuilding. “We believe that the citizens of Papua New Guinea will overcome adversities and restore their homeland promptly,” stated foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning during a routine press briefing.

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Search for survivors after a fatal landslide

Approximately six villages were impacted by the landslide in the province’s Mulitaka area, according to Australia‘s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Three bodies were extracted from a site where 50 to 60 homes were demolished. Six people, including one child, were rescued from the debris alive, reported the UN‘s Papua New Guinea office. However, the likelihood of finding additional survivors was dwindling.

Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters

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Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters

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Pic: New Porgera Limited/Reuters

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Villagers use heavy machinery to search through a landslide in Yambali in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, Sunday, May 26, 2024. The International Organization for Migration feared Sunday the death toll from a massive landslide is much worse than what authorities initially estimated. (Mohamud Omer/International Organization for Migration via AP)

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Villagers use heavy equipment to sift through the landslide. Pic: AP

The landslide resulted in debris up to eight meters deep spanning 200 sq km (77 sq miles), obstructing road access and complicating relief efforts. Helicopters were the only feasible means to access the area. Survivors sifted through tons of dirt and rubble manually in search of missing relatives while an initial emergency convoy delivered sustenance and provisions on Saturday. In February, at least 26 men were slain in Enga Province in an ambush amid tribal conflict, prompting Prime Minister James Marape to authorize arrest powers to the nation’s military. Mr. Marape mentioned that disaster officials, the defense force, and the department of works and highways were assisting with relief and recovery efforts.

View of the damage after a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea May 24, 2024 in this obtained image. Emmanuel Eralia via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.?

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A damaged house post-landslide. Pic: Reuters

People carry bags in the aftermath of a landslide in Enga Province, Papua New Guinea, May 24, 2024, in this still image obtained from a video. Andrew Ruing/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT

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Locals transport their possessions from the landslide’s aftermath. Pic: Reuters

Papua New Guinea, with a population of roughly 10 million, is a diverse, developing country of predominantly subsistence farmers with 800 languages. Road infrastructure is scarce outside major cities. It occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of significant seismic activity encompassing the Pacific Ocean.

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In March, the nation experienced a 6.9-magnitude earthquake. The US and Australia are strengthening defense relations with the strategically vital country, while China is also pursuing stronger security and economic ties.

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