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Catastrophic Landslide Hits Papua New Guinea, Over 650 Feared Dead

A massive landslide in Papua New Guinea's Enga province has led to over 650 suspected deaths. Rescue operations are hampered by difficult terrain, with immediate needs for shelter, food, and water.

Devastating Landslide Hits Papua New Guinea: Hundreds Feared Dead

A catastrophic landslide has struck the highland province of Enga in Papua New Guinea, with over 650 deaths feared according to the latest updates. Occurring in the early hours of May 24, 2024, the landslide buried several villages, causing significant loss of life and property. The United Nations and local rescue teams are finding it particularly challenging to operate due to continuous ground movement and treacherous terrain.

Local reports indicate that over 150 houses are buried, affecting over 3,000 residents who have lost their homes, livestock, and essential services like clean water. Serhan Aktoprak, from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), described the scene as 'catastrophic,' emphasizing the ongoing risk posed by shifting earth and running water.

Rescue Efforts Hampered by Difficult Terrain and Ongoing Hazards

Rescue missions have been significantly delayed due to the inaccessibility of the affected areas. The main roads damaged by the landslide have further complicated the efforts. Relief teams, comprising doctors, police, and military personnel, arrived only on Saturday morning, a full day after the disaster. They are using basic tools like sticks, spades, and large forks to recover bodies, which highlights the dire conditions and the scale of destruction.

Elizabeth Laruma, head of a local women's association, reports that the disaster occurred while people were asleep, resulting in the complete destruction of the village. Efforts are also being undertaken to clear the blocked roads to facilitate relief supplies. Villagers are in urgent need of shelter, food, clean water, and medical supplies.

Impact on Local Infrastructure and Economy

The landslide has also disrupted the Porgera gold mine, one of the largest gold mines globally, adding to the region's economic challenges. Papua New Guinea, although rich in natural resources like oil, gas, and gold, has a significant portion of its ten million citizens living in extreme poverty. Climate change is exacerbating the frequency of such natural disasters, affecting not only the human population but also the economic stability of the region.

Prime Minister James Marape has expressed his condolences to the affected families and has committed to deploying more resources for relief and recovery. The government is focusing on immediate needs such as temporary shelters, food, and water while also planning long-term rehabilitation efforts.

  • Further complicating the aftermath of the landslide, telecommunications in Papua New Guinea are extremely limited, particularly outside urban centers. This hampers the coordination of rescue and relief operations, making it difficult to get accurate information to and from the affected areas.
  • The landslide has brought attention to the need for better infrastructure and emergency preparedness in Papua New Guinea. Local media and international organizations are urging for more investment in disaster risk reduction to mitigate the impact of future natural disasters.
  • Studies have shown that climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of landslides globally, particularly in mountainous regions. Efforts to combat climate change, alongside local infrastructure improvements, are essential for minimizing the risk of such devastating events in the future.
Daily Reports
Refs: | TELEMUNDO | Merkur |

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