Over 2,000 feared dead in Papua New Guinea landslide: UN migration agency

Only 6 bodies have been recovered so far, says chief of mission

Beyza Binnur Dönmez  | 28.05.2024 - Update : 29.05.2024
Over 2,000 feared dead in Papua New Guinea landslide: UN migration agency


More than 2,000 people are feared dead in a landslide in Papua New Guinea, the UN migration agency said on Tuesday.

"According to the country’s National Disaster Centre, over 2,000 people are buried under the rubble after the massive landslide, triggered by heavy rains - marking one of the deadliest disasters in the country’s recent history," International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a statement.

Thousands of people have lost their homes and belongings in “the blink of an eye,” said Serhan Aktoprak, IOM chief of mission in Papua New Guinea, adding: "The scale of this disaster is truly heartbreaking."

The landslide occurred at around 3:00 a.m. (1700 GMT) local time on Friday, burying homes, infrastructure and farmland under up to eight meters of soil and debris, according to IOM.

The agency stressed that recovery efforts are continuing, but only six bodies have been recovered so far.

Citing provincial authorities, it said that over 7,840 people have been affected by the disaster so far, including those confirmed dead or missing and 1,650 displaced people.

Underscoring the vulnerability of the population, the agency said that many of the displaced had previously sought refuge in the area to escape tribal conflict.

"The challenges we face in the aftermath of this tragedy are immense," Aktoprak said, adding: "The area remains extremely dangerous due to ongoing land movement, and access is hindered by blocked roads, damaged infrastructure, and adverse weather conditions." 

IOM warned that with many bodies still to be recovered from beneath the rubble, there is concern that underground water flowing down the mountain will contaminate local drinking water sources, posing serious health risks.

It added that most of the area’s sources of clean drinking water have become "inaccessible" due to the landslide.  

Also, a bridge connecting Enga province to neighboring Western Highlands province collapsed Tuesday morning, further hampering the delivery of supplies and assistance to affected communities.

It noted that immediate UN assistance has been requested by the country and the emergency response will target the most pressing humanitarian needs, including the distribution of food, provision of shelter, emergency water, sanitation, and hygiene assistance, as well as logistical support and protection measures.

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