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UN agency fears 670 dead after PNG landslide

PNG landslide leaves hundreds dead

Source: X/Earthquakechil1

More than 670 people are feared dead after a landslide in Papua New Guinea’s highlands, as the devastating scale of the disaster becomes apparent.

A UN migration agency said about 150 homes were believed to be buried under mud and debris that was six to eight metres deep.

One local newspaper reported that an entire village had been wiped out.

But so far only five bodies and one leg have been recovered.

Rescuers also face a “dangerous and unstable” situation as huge boulders still fall and the land continues to slip.

Local people are digging through the rubble with their bare hands and sticks in a desperate bid to find survivors.

Serhan Aktoprak, the International Organisation for Migration’s head of mission PNG, said the scale of the disaster was much greater than initially thought.

The land continues to slide, hampering rescue efforts. Photo: Getty

Several villages in the province of Enga were hit when part of a mountain collapsed early on Friday in the remote central highlands of the Pacific nation.

More than 4000 people live in the affected area, according to reports. It is unclear how many were present when the landslide occurred.

One village in the area, Yambili, disappeared under the landslide, the local newspaper Post Courier reported on Saturday.

The inaccessibility of the region has complicated rescue efforts and hopes of finding survivors are diminishing quickly.

The area is characterised by tropical forests and a huge mountain range with rugged valleys, some of which are not accessible by road and can only be reached by air.

The terrain surrounding the disaster zone in Enga province also remained dangerous and unstable, prompting the evacuation of about 1250 survivors, Aktoprak said.

Aktoprak described the difficulties at the scene, saying people had to “run away from the site because of the increased danger as rocks nonstop keep falling and the land continues to slide”.

An entire village is believed to have been wiped out. Photo: Getty

Despite the difficulties, rescue efforts continue, involving national emergency response teams, police, the army and the UN.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday offered the PNG government help with rescue efforts and reconstruction. Australia and the US have also offered support.

PNG, with a population of almost 10 million people, is just north of Australia.

Despite being rich in minerals, timber, oil and gas, its history of colonialism, political instability and mismanagement of resources has kept its people impoverished.

-with AAP

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