Publish dateThursday 30 May 2024 - 11:42
Story Code : 291248
Papua New Guinea landslide: rescuers say they do not expect to find survivors under rubble
Officials are still trying to pinpoint the exact death toll, as rescue teams are set to begin using heavy machinery to recover the dead.
Afghan Voice Agency (AVA) - Monitoring: Officials in Papua New Guinea have said they do not expect to find survivors under the rubble of a massive landslide in the country’s remote north, with the exact number of dead under almost two storeys of debris and mud still unknown.
Heavy equipment and aid have been slow to arrive to the site of the landslide – which hit almost a week ago – because of the treacherous mountain terrain, a damaged bridge on the main road, and tribal unrest in the area.
“No bodies are expected to be alive under the debris at this point, so it’s a full recovery operation to recover any human remains,” Enga province disaster committee chairperson, Sandis Tsaka, told Reuters.
Dozens of soldiers, engineers, geology experts and public health officials have reached the site, Tsaka said. Rescue teams are planning to use heavy machinery from Thursday, after unstable ground delayed its use earlier.
Officials are still trying to pinpoint how many people are buried under parts of the mountain which collapsed on to the Yambali village in the Enga region last Friday.
The last credible census was done in the year 2000 and without a current count, officials are relying on incomplete voter records and checks with local leaders to reach an estimate on total deaths.
More than 2,000 people may have been buried alive, according to the PNG government, but a UN estimate put the death toll at about 670, while a local businessman and former official told Reuters it was closer to 160.
Tsaka said the government was still unsure about the death toll though it would be a “significant number”.
“It could be anywhere from hundreds to 2,000. I wouldn’t totally rule 2,000 out because of the uncertainty about how many people were [there] at the time, but I can’t give you a definitive answer till we complete the social mapping,” he said.
Of the six bodies recovered so far, two lived outside the disaster area, Tsaka said, reinforcing officials’ view that there was lots of movement between communities.
Thousands of residents are on alert for potential evacuation in case the landslide shifts further downhill.
“We are not even sleeping at night. We are afraid that more of the mountain will fall down and kill us all,” 20-year-old resident Frida Yeahkal said.
The landslide also buried nearby creeks and streams and contaminated the village’s primary water sources, posing a significant risk of disease outbreaks, the United Nations migration agency said in its latest update.
Most households lack alternative sources, such as rain catchment tanks, and there were no methods to treat water, further exacerbating drinking water shortages, the UN said.
The agency estimates about 1,650 people have been displaced, with one in five under the age of six.
“What will happen to the ones alive? I do not know where we will go for food and shelter. Our houses and gardens have all been destroyed,” community leader Yuri Yapara said./Guerdain
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