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PNG ends landslide rescue efforts amid fears of another

The scene of the landslide

Source: X/Earthquakechil1

Further landslides will likely plague the area where part of a mountain collapsed onto a remote village in Papua New Guinea a fortnight ago, New Zealand geological experts warn as authorities end search and rescue efforts.

It remains unclear how many people died in the massive landslide in PNG’s Enga region on May 24.

The national government reports more than 2000 people have been buried alive while a United Nations estimate puts the death toll at about 670.

Only 11 bodies have been recovered so far.

New Zealand geotechnical engineers sent to PNG released a report on Thursday raising concerns about the stability of the ground not just in the landslide but also to either side of it.

“We believe that there is real potential for further landslides to occur in the near or medium term,” Aaron Waterreus, the leader of the Fire and Emergency New Zealand team, which included the geotechnical engineers, said on Friday.

FENZ geotechnical engineer Jan Kupec added the landslide, which covers roughly 14 hectares, is of such a scale it is impossible to stop it from moving and it could continue to move for months or even years.

He said the rock avalanche was likely part of an old landslide that has been reactivated and there were concerns the start of monsoon rains would liquefy the material that had fallen off the hill and again reactivate the landslide.

Enga Provincial Government on Thursday announced mass evacuations of further areas around the landslide due to concerns around further earth movement.

The government has ceased searching for bodies and the area has been deemed a mass burial site.

The UN International Organisation for Migration said more than 7200 people were displaced by the landslide and the numbers may increase.

Treacherous terrain and tribal unrest in the area meant heavy equipment and aid have been slow to arrive, and PNG government officials a week ago ruled out finding survivors under the rubble.

The disaster site will be quarantined with access restricted to prevent the spread of disease from decaying bodies, according to the UN organisation.

-AAP

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