Rescuers search through rubble after more than 300 people were buried after a landslide in Papua New Guinea | Environment News

Landslides blocked road access to affected communities, making helicopters the easiest way to reach the disaster area.

Rescuers have arrived at the site of a massive landslide in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea, helping villagers search for hundreds of people feared dead under huge mounds of rubble and mud.

“Right now, we are still searching for bodies that were buried by the huge landslide,” community leader Mark Ipuia told Reuters news agency on Saturday, adding that “more than 300” villagers could be buried.

So far, only four bodies have been pulled from the rubble, said a United Nations official based in the capital, Port Moresby.

The disaster struck Kaokalam village in Enga province early Friday morning, when many villagers were sleeping in their homes, according to government officials.

According to Papua New Guinea media, at least 1,182 houses were also buried by the landslide in the area located about 600 kilometers (370 miles) northwest of Port Moresby.

“There are many houses under the rubble that cannot be reached,” said UN official Serhan Aktoprak, who estimated that about 3,000 people called the hillside settlement their home.

“The ground continues to slide and move, and that makes it dangerous for people to operate,” he told the AFP news agency.

While the area is not densely populated, the humanitarian agency CARE said it is concerned that the death toll could be disproportionately high.

The landslide also blocked access to the highway, making helicopters the only way to reach the area. Emergency medical team, including military and police, also had difficulty reaching the area due to rugged terrain and damage to main roads.

In total, more than six villages were affected by the landslide in the Mulitaka region of the province, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said on Saturday.

“The Australian High Commission in Port Moresby is in close contact with PNG authorities to conduct further assessments on the extent of damage and casualties,” a DFAT spokesperson said in a statement.

Images on social media posted by villager Ninga Role showed people climbing over rocks, uprooted trees and mounds of earth in search of survivors. In the background you could hear the women crying.

Prime Minister James Marape said disaster officials, the Defense Forces and the Department of Public Works and Highways were assisting with relief and recovery efforts.

The South Pacific county is vulnerable to natural disasters, including heavy rain and flooding, as well as earthquakes.

In March, at least 23 people died in a landslide in a nearby province.

Residents look at a demolished house at the site of a landslide in Yambali village, Maip Mulitaka region, following the deadly disaster (AFP)

Leave a Comment