Papua New Guinea landslide death toll estimated at at least 670

At least 670 people are believed to have died after a landslide in Papua New Guinea, according to a local United Nations official. The landslide hit a rural region of the island nation early Friday, but search and rescue efforts have been hampered by the difficulty of reaching the disaster site and the danger that the changing terrain continues to pose.

This danger has led many survivors to abandon their homes, according to Serhan Aktoprak, chief of mission for the International Organization for Migration office in Papua New Guinea, who estimated that more than 250 houses were abandoned and that approximately 1,250 people were displaced. .

The region, in Enga province, is densely populated, according to local officials, and has a young population. Authorities fear that many of the fatalities are children under 15 years of age.

The local government secured food and water for about 600 people, Aktoprak said, and a humanitarian convoy of local officials and members of the International Organization for Migration headed to the region on Sunday. An aid convoy arrived Saturday afternoon to deliver tarps and water, but no food.

Conditions have made distribution difficult. As of Sunday afternoon, the ground was still sliding, rocks were falling and the ground was cracking due to increased pressure and groundwater. No earth-moving equipment had arrived and people were searching for bodies using tools such as shovels and pitchforks, Aktoprak said.

The region has witnessed tribal clashes in recent months. A dispute broke out between two clans on Saturday morning, raising fears about the safety of those traveling on the only available road. Eight people were killed in the clash and dozens of houses were burned, Aktoprak said.

The landslide hit the town around 3 a.m. Friday, affecting homes while many residents were sleeping. Some of the rocks that buried homes and cut off a major highway were larger than shipping containers.

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