Papua New Guinea landslide rescue 'racing against time': UN

Papua New Guinea landslide rescue ‘racing against time’: UN

/ 09:07 AM May 27, 2024

Papua New Guinea landslide rescue 'racing against time': UN

This handout photo taken and received on May 26, 2024 from the International Organization for Migration shows people digging at the site of a landslide at Yambali Village in the region of Maip Mulitaka, in Papua New Guinea’s Enga Province. More than 670 people are believed dead after a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea, a UN official told AFP on May 26 as aid workers and villagers braved perilous conditions in their desperate search for survivors. (Photo by Mohamud Omer / International Organization for Migration / AFP)

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea — Rescuers were racing against time to find any survivors after a landslide obliterated a Papua New Guinea village and killed an estimated 670 people, a UN official told AFP on Monday.

The once-bustling hillside village in Enga province was almost wiped out when a chunk of Mount Mungalo collapsed in the early hours of Friday morning, burying scores of homes and the people sleeping inside them.


READ: UN raises Papua New Guinea landslide death toll estimate to 670


“It has been already three days and seven hours since this disaster hit so basically we are racing against time but to what extent we might be able to bring people to safety is another issue,” said UN migration agency official Serhan Aktoprak.

Rescuers were working in hazardous conditions.

“Rocks continue to fall and move the ground,” he said.

“To make things worse, there is groundwater running underneath the debris which is turning the surface of the ground into a slide.”

About 250 homes nearby had been evacuated as a precaution, Aktoprak said.

Aid agencies and local leaders initially feared between 100 to 300 people had perished underneath the mud and rubble spanning almost four football fields in length.


But the estimated toll grew to 670 after local leaders and disaster workers realised official figures underestimated the population, the UN official said.

Heavy machinery and diggers had been set to arrive in the town on Sunday night.

But their transport was delayed by tribal violence — not associated with the landslide — along the only route not blocked by the disaster.

Since the start of the year, Papua New Guinea has experienced multiple earthquakes, floods and landslides -– stretching the deployment of emergency services and rescuers.

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More than 1,000 people have been displaced by the catastrophe, aid agencies have estimated, with food gardens and water supplies destroyed.

TAGS: Landslide, Papua New Guinea

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