Papua New Guinea: Number of People Buried Alive in Landslide Rises to 2000

More than 200 homes, a hospital, and a school are 8 meters underground

The tragic death toll from a giant landslide that wiped out several villages in Papua New Guinea has risen dramatically. In a letter to the United Nations, Papua New Guinea authorities said “more than 2000 people were buried as a result of a massive landslide that struck the mountainous area on Thursday night.” Initial estimates said there were 670 missing.

The site of the disaster, in the remote province of Enga, 600 kilometers from the capital, is virtually inaccessible to heavy machinery. First aid arrived by air in helicopters. The videos, which survivors and rescuers have circulated on social media, show people digging through mud and rocks with practically bare hands. More than 200 homes were buried under eight meters of dirt, and 250 homes were left abandoned. There are about 1250 displaced persons.

Rescue operations are further complicated by the fact that water continues to flow down the mountain, making the ground very unstable. According to local media, the landslide may have been caused by heavy rains in recent weeks. This Pacific country has one of the rainiest climates in the world.

Rescue efforts are also slow because the safety of the rescuers is threatened by tribal clashes in the Enga region.