Papua New Guinea: Emergency Rescue Mission After Devastating Landslide
Papua New Guinea: Emergency Rescue Mission After Devastating Landslide

Emergency services are rushing to aid villages in Papua New Guinea's remote Enga province after a massive landslide buried hundreds of homes, potentially claiming hundreds of lives.

A rapid response team of medics and military personnel has reached the site, according to humanitarian agency Care Australia. However, rescue efforts are hampered by difficult terrain and damaged roads, with highway access blocked and the area only reachable by helicopter.

The landslide struck the highlands of Enga around 03:00 local time on Friday (17:00 GMT on Thursday), covering hundreds of homes in rubble. The exact number of people trapped remains unknown. Care Australia reported that 60 homes were destroyed, and all occupants are currently unaccounted for. Nearly 4,000 people live in the affected area, but the number impacted could be higher due to an influx of people escaping conflicts from nearby regions. There are also concerns that additional villages could be at risk if the landslide continues to move down the mountain.

Amos Akem, an MP from Enga province, reported to The Guardian that more than 300 people and 1,182 houses were buried by the landslide. He noted that rescue operations are hindered by blocked roads connecting Yambali village to the provincial capital. The landslide created debris up to 8 meters deep, affecting over 200 square kilometers of land, including 150 meters of the main highway into Enga Province, as stated by Care Australia.

UN official Serhan Aktoprak informed the AP news agency that the landslide affected an area the size of three to four football fields. Some houses in the village were spared, but given the scale of the disaster, the death toll might exceed 100. The ongoing risk of further landslides complicates rescue operations. "The land continues to slide and move, making it dangerous for rescuers," Aktoprak told AFP news agency.

Locals have described how trees and debris from the collapsed mountainside buried parts of the community, isolating it completely. Footage shows residents pulling bodies from the rubble as they navigate the treacherous terrain.

A nearby villager, Dominic Lau, described the scene to Australian broadcaster ABC: "There were no houses left. It was just flat with soil, rocks, and no signs of people or homes."

Enga's governor, Peter Ipatas, called the disaster "unprecedented," stating that as many as six villages were affected. Enga province is over 600 kilometers from Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby.

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 assist with the rescue efforts.

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