More than 100 people are believed to have died in a landslide in Papua New Guinea

More than 100 people are believed to have died in a landslide on Friday that buried a village in a remote, mountainous area of ​​Papua New Guinea, and an emergency response is underway, officials in the South Pacific island nation said. .

The landslide hit Enga province, about 600 kilometers northwest of the capital, Port Moresby, at about 3 a.m., Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. Residents in surrounding areas said rocks and trees on the hillside A collapsed mountain buried parts of the community and left it isolated.

Residents said estimates of the death toll exceeded 100, although authorities have not confirmed that figure. Some villagers and local media reports said the number of people killed could be much higher, although they did not cite sources.

The head of the International Organization for Migration mission in Papua New Guinea, Serhan Aktoprak, said the landslide hit the village of Yambali, which is about two hours’ drive from Wabag, the Enga provincial capital.

Yambali lies along a highway out of the capital that is now blocked, hampering relief efforts, Aktoprak told The Associated Press.

“The terrain continues to slide, making it very difficult to operate,” he said, citing first-hand reports from IOM staff and others deployed from the provincial capital to the affected village.

He said the affected area covered the size of three or four football fields and that 3,895 people live in the town. Some houses in the village were saved from the landslide, he said, but the total number of victims is not yet known.

Aktoprak, speaking by phone from Papua’s capital, Port Moresby, said that “given the magnitude of the disaster,” he feared the death toll could be higher than original estimates of around 100.

Water is inaccessible in the affected area, power lines are down and villagers will likely have difficulty accessing food, Aktoprak said.

“The immediate needs are shelter, other non-food items (such as) blankets and sheets, food and drinking water,” he added.

ABC had earlier named the affected village as Kaokalam. It was not possible to immediately reconcile the different names.

Prime Minister James Marape said authorities were responding and he would release information about the destruction and loss of life when it became available.

“I have not yet been fully informed about 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,” Marape said in a statement.

“We are dispatching disaster officials, the PNG Defense Force and the Department of Public Works and Highways to… commence relief work, recovery of bodies and reconstruction of infrastructure,” he added.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told 1News that it is aware of “reports of a significant landslide.”

He said 56 New Zealanders are registered on SafeTravel as residents of Papua New Guinea, “however, none are registered as being in the affected area”.

“We have not received any requests for consular assistance,” the ministry said.

“New Zealand stands ready to respond to any request for assistance from the Government of Papua New Guinea.”

Australia, a close neighbor and Papua New Guinea’s most generous foreign aid provider, said the government was willing to help.

“We send our deepest condolences to the people of PNG following the landslide,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong posted on social media.

“The loss of life and destruction is devastating,” he added. “As friends and partners, Australia stands ready to assist in relief and recovery efforts.”

Videos on social media showed residents removing bodies buried under rocks and trees.

Elizabeth Laruma, who runs a women’s business association in Porgera, a town in the same province near the Porgera gold mine, said houses were swept away when a mountainside gave way.

“It happened when people were still sleeping in the early hours of the morning and the whole town went under,” Laruma told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“From what I can guess, this is more than 100 people buried underground.”

The landslide blocked the road between Porgera and the village, he said, raising concerns about the town’s supply of fuel and goods.

Village resident Ninga Role, who was away when the landslide occurred, expects at least four of her relatives to have died.

“There are huge stones, plants and trees. The buildings collapsed,” Role said.

“These things make it difficult to find the bodies.”

Port Moresby-based ABC reporter Belinda Kora said helicopters were the only way to access the village, which is in the mountainous inland region known as the Highlands, with the main road closed.

Papua New Guinea is a diverse and developing nation, mostly subsistence farmers who speak 800 languages. There are few roads outside the larger cities.

With 10 million inhabitants, it is also the most populous nation in the South Pacific after Australia, which is home to about 27 million.

Telecommunications are poor, particularly outside Port Moresby, where government data shows 56% of the country’s social media users reside. Only 1.66 million people in the entire country use the Internet and 85% of the population lives in rural areas.

Additional reporting by 1News

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