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View of the damage after a landslide in Maip Mulitaka
A locals gather amid the damage after a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea May 24, 2024 in this obtained image. Emmanuel Eralia via REUTERS Image: Reuters/Emmanuel Eralia

More than 2,000 buried alive in Papua New Guinea landslide

By Renju Jose and Lewis Jackson

More than 2,000 people were buried alive by a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea last week, the national disaster center said on Monday, as treacherous terrain and the difficulty of getting aid to the site raises the risk few survivors will be found.

The numbers of those buried around Yambali village in Enga province in the country's north are based on estimates from local authorities which have been rising steadily since Friday's landslide.

A U.N. agency put the estimated death toll at more than 670 people on Sunday.

The National Disaster Centre raised the toll again to 2,000 in a letter to the U.N. on Sunday that was released publicly on Monday. The landslide also caused major destruction to buildings and food gardens, it said.

"The situation remains unstable as the landslip continues to shift slowly, posing ongoing danger to both the rescue teams and survivors alike," according to the letter.

About 4,000 people were living near the affected area, CARE International PNG country director Justine McMahon told ABC television on Monday.

But it is difficult to get an accurate estimate of the local population as PNG's last credible census was in 2000 and many people live in remote mountainous villages. The country recently announced a census would be conducted in 2024.

The unstable terrain, remote location and nearby tribal warfare are hampering relief efforts in Papua New Guinea.

Emergency crews, led by Papua New Guinea's (PNG) defense personnel, were on the ground, but the first excavator only reached the site late on Sunday, according to a U.N. official.

Social media footage posted by villagers and local media teams showed people scaling rocks, digging with shovels, sticks and their bare hands to find survivors. Women could be heard weeping in the background.

Six bodies have been retrieved so far. The U.N. said the number of possible deaths could change as rescue efforts were expected to continue for days.

PNG media on Monday reported that residents had rescued a couple trapped under rubble after hearing their cries for help.

Johnson and Jacklyn Yandam told local NBC News that they were very grateful and described their rescue as a miracle.

"We thank God for saving our lives at that moment. We were certain that we were going to die but the big rocks didn't crush us," Jacklyn said. "It's really hard to explain as we got trapped for nearly eight hours, then got rescued. We believe we were saved for a purpose."

About 1,250 people have been displaced by the landslide, which occurred in PNG's Enga province early Friday. More than 150 houses were buried and about 250 houses abandoned.

"The houses are buried under around eight meters of dirt. So there is quite a lot of debris to get through," said CARE's McMahon.

Water continued to flow under the debris, the U.N. migration agency said, making it extremely dangerous for residents and the rescue team to clear debris.

Serhan Aktoprak, the chief of the U.N. migration agency's mission in PNG, told ABC television that emergency crews would continue to look for survivors until the residents asked them to stop.

Aktoprak said that the rescue team had eight vehicles but that he hoped to receive additional resources soon.

Tribal violence in the region has raised security concerns for road travel, with the military escorting convoys of rescue teams. Eight people were killed, and five shops and 30 houses burnt down on Saturday, the U.N. agency said.

PNG gave arrest powers to its military in February amid an eruption of tribal violence that saw at least 26 men killed in an ambush.

The landslide hit a section of highway near the Porgera gold mine, operated by Barrick Gold through Barrick Niugini Ltd, its joint venture with China's Zijin Mining. Barrick has said the mine has enough fuel on site to operate for 40 days and other critical supplies for longer.

© Thomson Reuters 2024.

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Horrible way to go.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Poor people living in mud huts surviving by farming. Happened while sleeping. They didn’t have a chance.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Perhaps PNG will set and enforce mine safety standards now? While they are at it, the laws should ensure that 50% of any mine profits are shared with the people of PNG to help them raise living standards.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Oh crikey 2000 people that's aweful

Sincere condolences


3 ( +3 / -0 )

Oh wow, that's devastating. It's an impoverished country as well it must be very difficult.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This is truly the stuff of nightmares. In the 70s when disaster movies were t5he rage on TV, I remember one called 'Avalanche'. This couple was in the act of committing adultery (you saw a man's pants hitting the floor and heard a woman giggling) and then all of a sudden a HUGE mass of snow engulfs them all in the act. When you're about 9 or 10 years old as I was this kind of stuff can give you the heebie jeebies.

SpitfireMay 27  04:21 pm JST


Horrible way to go.

And it all happened just like that. Horrible, terrifying and scary.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Developing nation being screwed by international mining company {here China }.

Seen in Africa and other areas as well.

Mining under unsafe environment, probably employing a few locals only with 99 .9% of profits going to parent company.

We saw a near civil war on Bougainville Island when locals stopped the mining at a site that was foreign owned and causing much environmental damage.

And in this tragedy, I believe Australia in particular should initiate a rescue operation with military use of helicopters and transport of equipment for excavation, remediation etc.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And in this tragedy, I believe Australia in particular should initiate a rescue operation with military use of helicopters and transport of equipment for excavation, remediation etc.

China should be doing that. Put their military to good use.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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