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Papua New Guinea Landslide Leaves Over 670 Feared Dead, UN Reports

Papua New Guinea Landslide

A devastating landslide in Papua New Guinea has left over 670 people presumed dead, according to estimates from the United Nations’ migration agency.

Initially, media reports suggested that more than 300 individuals were buried under the landslide that occurred on Friday.

However, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) now believes the death toll could exceed double that figure due to ongoing dangerous conditions and the uncertainty surrounding the extent of the destruction.

Only five bodies have been recovered from the debris so far. The IOM’s estimates are based on information provided by officials in Yambali Village, Enga province, where over 150 houses were buried in the landslide.

Serhan Aktoprak, the chief of the agency’s mission in PNG, emphasized the continued risk in the area, with ongoing landslides, falling rocks, and cracked ground posing extreme danger.

The aftermath of the disaster has displaced around 1,250 people, with more than 250 abandoned houses nearby. Rescue efforts are underway, with villagers using makeshift tools to uncover buried bodies.

The affected community, primarily consisting of young individuals, fears that many of the fatalities may be children aged 15 or younger.

The landslide struck near the Porgera gold mine, operated by Barrick Gold and China’s Zijin Mining.

The Porgera Highway remains blocked, hindering access to affected areas, with helicopters being the only means of transportation to the Porgera Gold Mine and other isolated localities.

While the government and military are on the ground, heavy equipment necessary for rescue operations has yet to reach the village.

Additionally, the community may delay the use of excavators until they’ve completed mourning and grieving rituals.

The government plans to establish evacuation centers on either side of the landslide-affected area to accommodate displaced individuals.

Relief efforts, including the distribution of essential supplies, are underway, but access challenges persist due to the rugged terrain and widespread debris.

The landslide, which left debris spanning 200 square kilometers, has severely impacted road access and relief operations.

Prime Minister James Marape has pledged government support for recovery efforts, underscoring the urgent need for aid and assistance in the affected regions.

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