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27 May, 2024 10:58

Over 2,000 buried under rubble after landslide – Papua New Guinea to UN

The South Pacific island nation has formally requested international assistance in dealing with Friday’s disaster
Over 2,000 buried under rubble after landslide – Papua New Guinea to UN

More than 2,000 people could be buried under the rubble left by Friday’s deadly landslide in Papua New Guinea, AP has reported, citing a letter the South Pacific island nation’s authorities have sent to the United Nations.

Early on Friday, a side of Mount Mungalo, located some 600 kilometers (373 miles) to the north of the capital, Port Moresby, collapsed, completely covering Yambali village with a mix of rocks, mud and uprooted trees. The natural disaster also severed the main provincial highway in the area, compounding rescue efforts.

Tribal hostilities in the region are also presenting significant logistics challenges, first responders have reported, with military personnel needed to protect aid shipments.

The acting director of Papua New Guinea’s National Disaster Center, Luseta Laso Mana, wrote to the United Nations on Sunday that the landslide had “buried more than 2,000 people alive” and caused “major destruction.”

Mana, who visited the affected area personally in the wake of the national disaster, warned that it would have serious economic repercussions for the island nation, and formally requested international assistance, according to AP.

Earlier that same day, Serhan Aktoprak, the chief of the International Organization for Migration’s mission in Papua New Guinea, told AP that local authorities “are estimating that more than 670 people [are] under the soil at the moment.” He explained that the number was based on the average population figures per household in the region, adding, however, that the estimated death toll was “not solid.”

As for the latest assessment by Papua New Guinea authorities, Aktoprak said: “We are not able to dispute what the government suggests but we are not able to comment on it.”

Meanwhile, local officials acknowledged that they had initially underestimated the number of residents in Yambali village.

Since tragedy struck on Friday, the projected death toll has soared from a little over 100 victims to more than 2,000.
According to media reports, rescuers' efforts were initially slow.
The landslide has left at least 1,250 homeless, AP also reported, citing local authorities.