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Over 100 feared dead in landslide, with rescue efforts under way

Published:Saturday | May 25, 2024 | 12:10 AM
In this photo provided by the International Organization for Migration, an injured person is carried on a stretcher to seek medical assistance after a landslide in Yambali village, Papua New Guinea, Friday, May 24.
In this photo provided by the International Organization for Migration, an injured person is carried on a stretcher to seek medical assistance after a landslide in Yambali village, Papua New Guinea, Friday, May 24.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP):

More than 100 people are believed to have been killed in a landslide Friday that buried a village in a remote, mountainous part of Papua New Guinea, and an emergency response is under way, officials in the South Pacific island nation said.

The landslide struck Enga province, about 600 kilometres (370 miles) northwest of the capital, Port Moresby, at roughly 3 a.m., Australian Broadcasting Corp reported. Residents from surrounding areas said boulders and trees from a collapsed mountainside buried parts of the community and left it isolated.

Residents said that estimates of the death toll were above 100, although authorities haven’t confirmed that figure. Some villagers and local media reports said the number of people killed might be much higher, though they did not cite sources.

The chief of the International Organization for Migration’s mission in Papua New Guinea, Serhan Aktoprak, said the landslide struck Yambali village, which is about two hours’ drive from Enga’s provincial capital of Wabag.

Yambali sits along a road leading from the capital that is now blocked, hampering relief efforts, Aktoprak told The Associated Press.

“The land still continues sliding, therefore it makes it very difficult to operate on,” he said, citing firsthand reports from IOM staff and others deployed from the provincial capital to the affected village.

He said the area affected covered the size of three to four football fields, and that the village is home to 3,895 people. He said that some houses in the village were spared by the landslide, but that the total number of casualties is not yet known.

Aktoprak, who spoke by phone from the Papuan capital, Port Moreseby, said that “given the scale of the disaster”, he feared that the death toll could be higher than original estimates of about 100.

Water is inaccessible in the affected area, power lines are down, and villagers are likely to struggle with accessing food, Aktoprak said.