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Massive landslide hits Papua New Guinea, many feared dead


By AFP
Published : 24 May 2024 10:47 PM | Updated : 25 May 2024 04:10 PM

A massive landslide struck Papua New Guinea's highlands Friday, local officials and aid groups said, with many feared dead.

The disaster hit in Kaokalam village, in Papua New Guinea's remote Enga province at around 3:00 am local time.

Provincial governor Peter Ipatas told AFP that a big landslide had caused "loss of life and property".

Images from the scene showed a vast bite of rock and soil cleaved off from a densely vegetated hill.

A long and wide scar of car-size boulders, felled trees and dirt stretched down toward the valley floor.

The remains of many corrugated tin shelters could be seen at the foot of a large landslide.

Dozens of local men and women scrambled over the piles of rock and soil, digging, crying out, listening for survivors or standing scanning the scene in disbelief.

Some became instant rescuers, donning wellington boots, strapping on head torches, picking up machetes and long-handled axes to help clear the rubble. As they moved around, children carried on their mother's backs could be heard crying.

"The landslide hit around three last night and it looks like more than 100 houses got buried. It is not yet known how many people were in those houses," Vincent Pyati, president of the local Community Development Association, told AFP.

"The number of victims is unknown."

Aid agencies including the Papua New Guinea Red Cross and CARE said they had received confirmation of the landslide, but were working to find out more.

Sitting just south of the equator, the area gets frequent heavy rains.

This year has seen intense rainfall and flooding.

In March, at least 23 people were killed by a landslide in a nearby province.

The Australian government said it was "making enquiries with local authorities to determine whether any Australian have been affected."

"The Australian Government offers its sympathies to those affected by landslides in Papua New Guinea."

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