Race to rescue trapped villagers

Emergency services are racing to reach villages affected by a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea’s isolated Enga province, where hundreds of people are believed to have died.

Humanitarian agency Care Australia said a rapid response team of doctors and military personnel had reached the isolated landslide site.

However, difficult terrain and damage to main roads are making rescue efforts difficult, with highways blocked and the area accessible only by helicopter.

The landslide buried hundreds of homes in the Enga highlands, north of the southwestern Pacific island nation, at around 03:00 local time on Friday (17:00 GMT on Thursday).

It is unclear how many people are trapped under the rubble.

“While the area is not densely populated, our concern is that the death toll could be disproportionately high,” Care Australia said in an earlier statement.

Amos Akem, MP for Enga province, told the Guardian that based on reports from the ground, “the landslide buried more than 300 people and 1,182 houses”.

Quoted by the Guardian, Mr. Akem explained that rescue efforts were hampered by a blocked road connecting the affected Yambali village and the capital.

Yambali is located about 50km (31 miles) from the provincial capital Wabag.

Speaking to the Associated Press, United Nations official Mr. Aktoprak said the area affected by the landslide was the size of 3-4 football fields.

Yambali village is home to 3,895 people, he added.

Mr. Aktoprak said some houses in the village were not affected by the landslide but “given the scale of the disaster” the death toll could reach more than 100 people.

Outreach to those affected has been complicated by fears of more landslides.

“The ground continues to slide and move, which makes it dangerous for people to operate,” Mr. Aktoprak told AFP news agency.

Residents from surrounding areas described trees and debris from the collapsed mountainside burying parts of the community, leaving the area isolated.

Footage from the scene showed locals pulling bodies from beneath rubble and trees as they made their way across terrain covered with giant boulders and uprooted trees.

A resident of a nearby village said that when he arrived at the landslide scene, “there was no house.” [left]”.

Speaking to Australian broadcaster ABC, Dominic Lau said it was all “just flat on the ground”.

“There is nothing, just rocks and dirt… no people and no houses to see,” Mr. Lau added.

Enga Governor Peter Ipatas told AFP that up to “six villages” had been affected by the landslide, which he described as an “unprecedented natural disaster”.

Enga is more than 600km by road from the country’s capital Port Moresby.

The Papua New Guinea Red Cross earlier said an emergency response team made up of officials from the provincial governor’s office, police, defense forces and local NGOs had been deployed to the area. this point.

Speaking on Friday, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape said authorities were responding to the disaster.

He said the government was working with local officials to provide “relief work, recover bodies and rebuild infrastructure”.


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