Friday, June 14, 2024

Over 2,000 buried alive in Papua New Guinea landslide, say local officials

More than 2,000 people were buried alive by a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea last week, the national disaster centre said on Monday. The massive landslide has wiped out much of Yambali village in the highlands region.

The incident occurred on Friday when an avalanche of earth and rock suddenly crashed down on the remote village located about 600km (370 miles) northwest of Port Moresby, the capital. Initial reports suggested around 100 fatalities, but the death toll has drastically risen.

The National Disaster Centre raised the toll again to 2,000 in a letter to the UN on Sunday that was released publicly on Monday. The landslide also caused major destruction to buildings and food gardens, it said.

“The situation remains unstable as the landslip continues to shift slowly, posing an ongoing danger to both the rescue teams and survivors alike,” according to the letter.

Perilous Rescue Efforts

The sheer scale of the disaster and precarious conditions have severely hampered rescue operations. “

The situation is terrible with the land still sliding. The water is running and this is creating a massive risk for everyone involved,” Aktoprak described from Port Moresby.

Further landslides and unstable terrain make it incredibly dangerous for emergency responders to access the area. The main road has also been cut off for over 200 meters, restricting the delivery of relief and heavy machinery.

The landslide’s massive path of destruction, up to 8 meters deep in places and the size of 3-4 football fields, has obliterated the village’s livestock, food gardens and water sources. Authorities are urgently trying to set up evacuation centres on safer ground nearby.

Tribal Conflicts Add Complexity

Compounding the crisis are the tribal conflicts endemic to PNG’s highlands. Convoys transporting relief supplies have faced security risks from warring tribes in at least one village along the route, requiring a protective military escort. 

While only 5 bodies have been recovered so far, the PNG government is expected to formally request international aid in the coming days. Countries like the United States and Australia have already signalled their readiness to support the relief efforts.

As rescuers race against time and hazardous conditions, the full extent of this calamitous landslide is still unfolding.


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