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Hundreds feared dead after massive landslide in Papua New Guinea

RNZ Pacific correspondent Scott Waide confirmed reports of multiple deaths and many homes destroyed.

RNZ Pacific correspondent Scott Waide confirmed reports of multiple deaths and many homes destroyed.
Photo: Facebook / Amos Tito

Dozens of people have died in a massive landslide that has hit a remote village in Papua New Guinea.

The landslide reportedly affected the village of Yambali in Enga province, about 600 kilometers northwest of Port Moresby.

The landslide has buried homes and orchards, leaving what locals say are about 3,000 people buried under a massive landslide.

Papua New Guinea authorities have not yet officially confirmed the death toll.

In a Facebook post on Friday night, PNG Prime Minister James Marape conveyed his condolences to the families of those who died in the landslide.

Disaster officials, the PNG Defense Force and the Department of Works and Highways were dispatched to meet provincial and district officials in Enga and begin relief work, recovery of bodies and reconstruction of infrastructure, he said.

“I have not yet been fully informed of the situation, however I extend my deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the landslide disaster in the early hours of this morning.”

A massive landslide hit the village of Yambali in the Enga province of Papua New Guinea on May 24, 2024.

A massive landslide hit the village of Yambali in the Enga province of Papua New Guinea on May 24, 2024.
Photo: RNZ / Scott Waide

The Enga provincial administration has come together to form an emergency response team to assess the damage.

He called on local health centers and non-governmental organizations to be prepared to assist in recovery and relief efforts.

PNG police told RNZ Pacific correspondent Scott Waide that at least 50 houses have been destroyed. Waide said the average Papua New Guinea family consisted of approximately eight to 10 people per household.

Residents there say they have lost relatives and are recovering bodies.

Community leader Jethro Tulin told RNZ Pacific the disaster devastated the village, which has a population of about 3,000.

“It was a massive landslide… it happened around 3am last night (Friday). People were sleeping… the whole town is covered.”

He said a team had been sent from Wabag, the provincial capital, to investigate the scene.

The ABC first reported that residents said they estimated “more than 100” deaths, but authorities had not yet confirmed this figure.

Satellite map view of Enga province in Papua New Guinea.

Satellite map view of Enga province in Papua New Guinea.
Photo: google maps

The town of Yambali is a two-hour drive from the Porgera gold mine.

The catastrophic destruction is blocking access to the mine, forcing a normally hectic operation to halt.

The main road to Porgera has also been closed.

Four people have been rescued, but with the main road closed, authorities say it will be difficult to bring heavy machinery into town to assist in rescue and recovery efforts.

Special equipment is needed to recover bodies

Another resident told RNZ Pacific that locals are trying to recover the bodies, but need heavy equipment to remove huge rocks and debris and are waiting for support from the government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

They say it could take weeks to recover thousands of bodies trapped under a landslide.

People gather at the site of a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea, May 24, 2024. Local officials and aid groups said a massive landslide hit a village in the highlands of Papua New Guinea on May 24, and many are feared dead.

People gather at the site of a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea, May 24, 2024. Local officials and aid groups said a massive landslide hit a village in the highlands of Papua New Guinea on May 24, and many are feared dead.
Photo: STR-AFP

Nearby resident Mick Michael said rescue efforts would likely focus on body recovery efforts.

“I think two or three people have already been discovered. It’s an entire community buried by the landslide.

“It can be estimated that there are 3,000 people buried. In reality, these are large landslides with large rocks. In about a week, it will take time to discover those bodies with the help of machines and trucks.”

He said residents were asking the Papua New Guinea government and NGOs for support.

Images on social media platform Facebook show the enormity of the landslide, with debris falling over houses and vehicles after falling rocks and trees.

People gather at the site of a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea, May 24, 2024. Local officials and aid groups said a massive landslide hit a village in the highlands of Papua New Guinea on May 24, and many are feared dead.

People gather at the site of a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea, May 24, 2024. Local officials and aid groups said a massive landslide hit a village in the highlands of Papua New Guinea on May 24, and many are feared dead.
Photo: STR-AFP

People gather at the site of a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea, May 24, 2024. Local officials and aid groups said a massive landslide hit a village in the highlands of Papua New Guinea on May 24, and many are feared dead.

People gather at the site of a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea, May 24, 2024. Local officials and aid groups said a massive landslide hit a village in the highlands of Papua New Guinea on May 24, and many are feared dead.
Photo: STR-AFP

A massive landslide hit the village of Yambali in the Enga province of Papua New Guinea on May 24, 2024.

A massive landslide hit the village of Yambali in the Enga province of Papua New Guinea on May 24, 2024.
Photo: RNZ / Scott Waide

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