Rescue teams arrive at site of massive landslide in Papua New Guinea

Rescue teams arrive at site of massive landslide in Papua New Guinea
Rescue teams arrive at site of massive landslide in Papua New Guinea

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - This handout photo by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on May 25, 2024 shows locals carrying a person on a stretcher from the site of a landslide at Yambali Village in the region of Maip Mulitaka, in Papua New Guinea's Enga Province. — Picture by Benjamin Sipa / International Organization for Migration via AFP

PORT MORESBY (Papua New Guinea), May 25 — Rescue teams began arriving at the site of a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea’s remote highlands today, helping villagers search for the scores of people feared dead under the towering mounds of rubble and mud.

The disaster hit an isolated part of Enga province at around 3.00am on Friday, according to government officials, when many villagers were at home asleep.

At least four bodies have been recovered, a United Nations official based in Papua New Guinea told AFP this morning, but there are fears hundreds more may be entombed.

“While the area is not densely populated, our concern is that the death toll could be disproportionately high,” humanitarian agency CARE said today as the first reinforcements began trickling into the site.

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A rapid response team of medics, military, and police had reached the landslide in the morning, CARE said, a journey complicated by the rugged terrain and damage to major roads.

The Red Cross yesterday estimated that as many as 500 people could be injured or dead.

Steven Kandai, a community leader at the scene, told AFP that many residents had no time to flee.

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“All of a sudden there was a big landslip. The mountain just collapsed all of a sudden while people were still sleeping,” he said, adding their homes were “completely buried”.

Images showed a scene of total devastation, with a vast bite of earth cleaved from densely vegetated Mount Mungalo.

The landslide left car-size boulders, felled trees and dirt that stretched down toward the valley floor.

The twisted remains of corrugated tin shelters and an overturned minibus could be seen at the foot of rubble.

Dozens of local men and women scrambled over the piles of rock and soil, digging, crying out, listening for survivors or scanning the scene in disbelief.

Sitting just south of the equator, the area is hit by frequent heavy rains.

In March, at least 23 people were killed by a landslide in a nearby province. — AFP

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