Thousands Evacuated in Papua New Guinea Following Deadly Landslide

Tue May 28 2024
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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea: Thousands of residents in Papua New Guinea have been ordered to evacuate due to an active landslide that buried over 2,000 people, according to government estimates. The disaster occurred after parts of a mountain collapsed in the northern Enga region on Friday.

Relief teams have faced significant challenges reaching the remote area, with officials stating that the chances of finding survivors are slim. Residents have resorted to using shovels and their bare hands to search for those buried under the debris.

“The landslide area is very unstable.” The chair of the Enga province disaster committee, Sandis Tsaka, stated, “When we’re up there, we’re regularly hearing big explosions where the mountain is, and there is still rocks and debris coming down.” “The landslide is still active; as people are digging through the rocks, more is still coming down.”

A state of emergency has been declared in the disaster zone and an adjacent area, affecting a combined population of between 4,500 to 8,000 people. Not all residents have been ordered to evacuate yet. Military personnel have established checkpoints and are assisting in moving residents to evacuation centers.

The delivery of heavy equipment and aid has been delayed due to the remote location, treacherous terrain, and tribal unrest, necessitating military escorts for relief convoys.

The government’s estimate of over 2,000 people buried is significantly higher than the initial U.N. estimate of more than 670 possible deaths. Former local government head Jiman Yandam estimated the death toll at 162, but only five bodies have been recovered so far.

The wide range in death toll estimates reflects the difficulty in obtaining accurate population data. The last credible census in the mountainous nation was conducted in 2000, and a 2022 voter roll does not include those under 18.

Tsaka refrained from providing a specific death toll, citing uncertainty about the number of residents present at the time of the landslide. Based on first approximations, we anticipate a substantial figure, potentially reaching the hundreds, but we want to exercise caution on the precise amount at this time,” he stated.

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