'Unlikely' to be more survivors from Papua New Guinea landslide

‘Unlikely’ to be more survivors from Papua New Guinea landslide

/ 12:56 PM May 28, 2024

'Unlikely' to be more survivors from Papua New Guinea landslide

This undated handout photo taken by the UN Development Program and released on May 28, 2024 shows locals reacting during search and rescue efforts at the site of a landslide at Mulitaka village in the region of Maip Mulitaka, in Papua New Guinea’s Enga Province. Agence France-Presse

PORT MORESBY — It is “very unlikely” more survivors of Papua New Guinea’s deadly landslide will be found, a UN agency warned Tuesday, as thousands at risk from further slips were ordered to evacuate.

Some 2,000 people are feared buried by a massive landslide that entombed a remote highland community in the early hours of May 24.


Since then, locals have been picking through a hellscape of meters-deep churned-up earth, uprooted trees and car-sized boulders in the search for loved ones — often using little more than their hands, shovels and digging sticks.


But hopes are dimming that anyone is alive underneath the mountain of rubble.

“It is not a rescue mission, it is a recovery mission,” UNICEF Papua New Guinea’s Niels Kraaier told AFP. “It is very unlikely they will have survived.”

Full-scale rescue and relief efforts have been severely hampered by the remote location, the only road link being severed, heavy rainfall and nearby tribal violence.

The Papua New Guinea Defense Forces have struggled to access the site with heavy earth-moving equipment.

Early on Tuesday, Enga provincial administrator Sandis Tsaka warned the disaster could worsen further, as clumps of limestone, dirt and rock continue to shear off the side of Mount Mungalo.

Tsaka told AFP authorities were now trying to coordinate the evacuation of almost 7,900 more people.


“The tragedy is still active,” he said. “Every hour you can hear rock breaking — it is like a bomb or gunshot and the rocks keep falling down.”

Aid officials said many residents were refusing to leave at-risk areas because they were holding out hope of finding loved ones.

‘Wiped out’

Satellite images show the enormous scale of the disaster.

A vast smear of yellow and grey debris can be seen cutting through once verdant bushland and severing the region’s only road.

“This was an area heavily populated with homes, businesses, churches and schools, it has been completely wiped out. It is the surface of the moon — it is just rocks,” said Tsaka.

“People are digging with their hands and fingers,” he said, expressing anguish at the under-resourced government’s inability to meet the enormity of the disaster.

“I am not equipped to deal with this tragedy,” Tsaka admitted.

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Overwhelmed Papua New Guinea authorities held an online emergency meeting with United Nations agencies and international allies Tuesday, hoping to kickstart the relief effort.

TAGS: Landslide, Papua New Guinea

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