Three bodies retrieved, 4000 affected by PNG landslide

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The landslide in PNG has buried more than 300 people and at least 1100 houses, DFAT says.
The landslide in PNG has buried more than 300 people and at least 1100 houses, DFAT says.

Emergency teams have pulled three bodies from the rubble of Papua New Guinea’s massive landslide, the UN says, warning the death toll of five will likely rise in the disaster where hundreds are feared dead.

Media in the Pacific nation north of Australia reported Friday’s landslide buried more than 300 people and at least 1100 houses when it levelled Kaokalam village in Enga Province, about 600km northwest of capital Port Moresby.

More than six villages have been impacted by the landslide in the province’s Mulitaka region, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

PNG landslide
More than six villages have been impacted by a deadly landslide in northern PNG. (AP PHOTO)

The UN migration agency IOM said more than 100 houses, a primary school, small businesses and stalls, a guesthouse and a petrol station were buried.

The death toll stood at five as of Saturday night, the agency’s chief of mission in PNG Serhan Aktoprak said in a statement on Sunday.

He said the “number of injured and missing was still not known”.

The UN’s PNG office said three bodies were retrieved from an area where 50 to 60 homes had been destroyed, while six people, including a child, were pulled from rubble alive.

It said many of those buried were yet to be located as search and rescue efforts continued in the mountainous area of the country, which shares the island of New Guinea with Indonesia.

Aid group CARE Australia said almost 4000 people lived in the impact zone but the number affected was probably higher as the area was “a place of refuge for those displaced by conflicts” in nearby areas.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape
PNG PM James Marape Marape says disaster officials and defence are assisting with recovery efforts. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

At least 26 men were killed in Enga Province in February in an ambush amid tribal violence that prompted Prime Minister James Marape to give arrest powers to the country’s military.

The landslide left debris up to eight metres deep across 200sq km, cutting off road access and making relief efforts difficult, CARE said. 

Helicopters were the only way to reach the area, ABC News reported.

Aid groups have said more homes could be at risk if the landslide continued down the mountain, as the terrain remained unstable.

Marape has said disaster officials, the Defence Force and the Department of Works and Highways were assisting with relief and recovery efforts.

Social media footage posted by villager Ninga Role showed people clambering over rocks, uprooted trees and mounds of dirt searching for survivors. 

Women could be heard weeping in the background.

Reuters