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Sunday, June 23, 2024

More than 2,000 people buried after landslide in Papua New Guinea

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A deadly landslide that Papua New Guinea villagers say hit like “an explosive bomb” may have buried more than 2,000 people alive, according to the BBC.

The figure, provided by the acting director of the country’s National Disaster Center, is far higher than the 670 suggested by the United Nations (UN) over the weekend.

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The deadly landslide toppled buildings and vehicles, trapping thousands of people under the rubble, authorities said in a news release Monday.

Government officials visited the disaster site on Sunday. And even as the official death toll rose, they warned that many more victims than expected appeared to still be trapped under the rubble.

“The landslide buried more than 2,000 people alive and caused great destruction to buildings, orchards and caused a great impact on the country’s economic livelihood,” said Lusete Mana, an official with the National Disaster Center, in a letter to the United Nations. .

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The letter emphasized that rescue efforts remained a challenge.

The main road to the area is blocked, the letter said, and the ground remains unstable as water flows beneath the rocks, displacing soil and “posing an ongoing danger to both rescue teams and survivors.”

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According to the BBC, about 3,800 people lived in the area before the disaster.

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Mana’s letter said the damage was “extensive” and had “caused a significant impact on the economic livelihood of the country.”

Papua New Guinea, a heterogeneous country, is rich in natural resources but lacks critical infrastructure, making it especially vulnerable to natural disasters, which occur frequently.

Attempts to rescue survivors or remove bodies from the rubble have so far been hampered by debris 10 meters deep in some places, blocked access and a lack of proper equipment, Reuters reported.

“No one escaped. We don’t know who died because the records are buried,” a school teacher from a neighboring village, Jacob Sowai, told AFP.

Standing in the rubble of the disaster, which stretches for almost a kilometer, Evit Kambu said he felt helpless.

“I have 18 members of my family buried under the rubble and soil I am on, and I can’t count many more relatives in the village,” he told Reuters news agency.

On Monday, Britain’s King Charles III, who is also head of state of Papua New Guinea, sent his and the queen’s condolences.

He added that he had “great admiration for the extraordinary resilience” of the country’s people, which he had witnessed firsthand.

“I have faith that your communities will come together to support survivors and recovery in these heartbreaking circumstances,” their statement on X read.

Remaining residents are being evacuated as the region remains high risk amid forecasts of more rain.

READ ALSO: Tinubu reaffirms commitment to improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea

“The ground is also quite unstable at the moment and there is a risk of causing further landslides,” Justine McMahon, national coordinator for Care Australia, one of the humanitarian aid agencies on the ground, told the BBC.

“We have decided to remain outside for now to give authorities time to properly assess the situation to carry out rescue and recovery operations.”

Local officials and journalists have attributed the mountain’s collapse to weeks of heavy rain and other wet conditions in the area.

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