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Massive Landslide in Papua New Guinea Claims Over 670 Lives

Photo : AFP

In Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, a UN official told AFP that over 670 people are feared dead after a massive landslide struck, with more than 1,000 individuals displaced. Serhan Aktoprak, from the UN migration agency, described the devastation, noting that the situation remains perilous due to ongoing land movements and running water, posing significant risks to search and rescue efforts.

The landslide, which occurred in Enga province, obliterated a once-thriving hillside village, burying numerous homes and their sleeping occupants. Aktoprak highlighted the desperate measures undertaken by aid workers and villagers using basic tools to uncover buried bodies.

Initially, estimates suggested between 100 and 300 casualties, but the death toll surged as it became evident that more people resided in the village than initially thought. The village, home to over 4,000 residents, served as a trading hub for alluvial miners in the highlands region.

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The disaster zone has faced additional challenges, including tribal conflicts along the sole remaining access route. Although unrelated to the landslide, these conflicts prompted security concerns, leading to military escorts for aid convoys.

The landslide, estimated to be up to eight meters deep, likely resulted from heavy rainfall saturating the region in preceding weeks. Papua New Guinea's humid highland regions are prone to intense rainfall, contributing to the country's status as one of the world's wettest climates.

Efforts to recover from the catastrophe involve manual labor, with workers utilizing shovels, axes, and other tools to clear debris and search for survivors. Heavy machinery is anticipated to arrive at the site to aid in the recovery process, providing much-needed assistance to the beleaguered community.

May 26, 2024 3:41 p.m. 556

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