Papua New Guinea: Rescue ops start for villagers trapped in deadly landslide

Emergency services are urgently working to reach villages struck by a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea’s remote Enga province, where it is feared that hundreds may have lost their lives.

A rapid response team, comprising medics and military personnel, has succeeded in accessing the isolated landslide site, according to humanitarian agency Care Australia. However, challenging terrain and extensive damage to main roads are severely hampering rescue efforts. The highway access is blocked, and the area can only be reached by helicopter.

The landslide occurred around 03:00 local time on Friday (17:00 GMT on Thursday), burying hundreds of homes in the highlands of Enga, located in the northern part of the island nation in the southwest Pacific. The exact number of people trapped under the rubble remains unknown.

Care Australia reported that 60 homes have been destroyed, and “at present, all the members of these households remain unaccounted for.” Nearly 4,000 people reside in the area affected by the landslide. The agency also cautioned that the number of affected individuals is “likely to be higher” due to an influx of people fleeing conflicts in neighboring areas. Furthermore, other villages could be at risk if the landslide continues to move down the mountain.

Enga province MP Amos Akem informed the Guardian newspaper that ground reports indicate “the landslide buried more than 300 people and 1,182 houses.” He highlighted that rescue efforts are impeded by a blocked road connecting the affected Yambali village to the provincial capital.

There is only one highway leading into Enga Province. The landslide has created debris up to 8 meters deep, impacting over 200 square kilometers of land, including 150 meters of the main highway, according to Care Australia.

UN official Serhan Aktoprak told the AP news agency that the affected area is comparable to the size of three to four football fields. While some houses in the village were spared, Mr. Aktoprak warned that “given the scale of the disaster,” the death toll could exceed 100. The ongoing operation to reach those affected is complicated by fears of further landslides.

“The land continues to slide and move, making it dangerous for people to operate,” Mr. Aktoprak told AFP news agency.

Residents from nearby areas have described the devastation, with trees and debris from the collapsed mountainside burying parts of the community and leaving it isolated. Footage from the scene shows locals pulling bodies from beneath rubble and trees, navigating terrain covered by giant boulders and uprooted trees.

A resident from a neighboring village, Dominic Lau, described arriving at the scene and seeing no houses left, just flat soil, rocks, and no signs of people or structures.

Enga’s governor, Peter Ipatas, described the landslide as an “unprecedented natural disaster,” affecting as many as “six villages.” Enga is situated more than 600 kilometers from the country’s capital, Port Moresby.

Earlier, the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society reported that an emergency response team, consisting of officials from the provincial governor’s office, police, defense forces, and local NGOs, had been deployed to the site.

On Friday, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, James Marape, stated that authorities are actively responding to the disaster. He mentioned that the government is collaborating with local officials to provide “relief work, recovery of bodies, and reconstruction of infrastructure.”

Latest articles

Pirates of the Caribbean actor ‘Tamayo Perry’ killed in shark attack

Tamayo Perry, an actor from Pirates of the Caribbean, has died after a shark attack while surfing in Hawaii. The 49-year-old passed away on...

Rising sea levels can disrupt millions in US by 2050

Rising sea levels due to global warming are set to disrupt the lives of millions of Americans by 2050, according to a new study....

900,000 children pushed to poverty in UK: Report

The poverty crisis in the UK, which has deepened over the past 14 years, has been starkly revealed in two reports detailing the severe...

China, EU to talk on electric car tariff hike

The risk of rising Chinese electric car prices in the EU might be diminishing after both parties agreed to negotiate a series of planned...

Related articles