June 16, 2024

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Landslide in Papua New Guinea: More than 2,000 people killed, according to the government

Landslide in Papua New Guinea: More than 2,000 people killed, according to the government

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Papua New Guinea’s government said Friday’s landslide buried more than 2,000 people and formally requested international assistance.

The government figure is about three times higher than the United Nations estimate of 670.

In a letter seen by The Associated Press to the U.N. resident coordinator dated Sunday, the acting director of the South Pacific country’s National Disaster Center said the landslide “buried more than 2,000 people alive” and caused “major destruction.”

Casualty estimates have varied greatly since the disaster occurred, and it was not immediately clear how officials arrived at the number of those affected.

This is a breaking news update. The previous AP story follows below.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia on Monday prepared to send planes and other equipment to help at the site of a deadly landslide in Papua New Guinea as overnight rains in the South Pacific nation’s mountainous interior raised fears that tons of rubble that buried hundreds of villagers could… They become dangerously unstable.

Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said his officials had been holding talks with their counterparts in Papua New Guinea since Friday A mountain collapsed in Yambali village In Inga Province, where the United Nations estimates that 670 people were killed. The remains of only six people have been recovered so far.

“The exact nature of the support we are providing will emerge over the coming days,” Marles told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“We obviously have the airlift capacity to get people there. There may be other equipment that we can use in terms of search and rescue, all of which we are talking about with Papua New Guinea now,” Marles added.

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Papua New Guinea is Australia’s closest neighbour, and the two countries are working to develop closer defense ties as part of Australian efforts to counter China’s growing influence in the region. Australia is also one of the most generous countries in providing foreign aid to its former colony, which gained independence in 1975.

Heavy rain fell for two hours overnight on the provincial capital of Wabag, 60 kilometers (35 miles) from the destroyed village. It was not immediately possible to obtain a weather report from Yambale, where communications are limited.

but Emergency responders They were concerned about the rain’s effect on the already unstable mass of debris 6 to 8 meters (20 to 26 feet) deep over an area the size of three to four football fields.

The excavator donated by a local construction worker on Sunday became the first piece of heavy earth-moving machinery brought in to help villagers who were digging with shovels and agricultural implements to find the bodies. Working around still shifting debris is treacherous.

Water is seeping between the rubble and the ground beneath it, increasing the risk of more landslides, said Serhan Oktobrak, head of the International Organization for Migration’s mission in Papua New Guinea.

The weather conditions in Yambali were not expected to be known until Monday afternoon.

“What personally worries me a lot is the weather, weather, weather,” Oktobrak said. “Because the ground is still sliding,” he added. “The rocks are falling.”

Papua New Guinea’s Defense Minister, Billy Joseph, and the director of the government’s National Disaster Centre, Lasso Mana, traveled on Sunday aboard an Australian military helicopter from the capital, Port Moresby, to Yambali, 600 kilometers (370 miles) to the northwest, to obtain a military helicopter. Australian. A direct perspective of what is needed.

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Mana’s office posted a photo of him in Yambale handing a local official a check for 500,000 kina ($130,000) to buy emergency supplies for the 4,000 displaced survivors.

The purpose of the visit was to determine whether the PNG government needed to formally request more international support.

Earth-moving equipment used by the Papua New Guinea army was transported to the disaster site 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the city of Lae on the east coast.

Traumatized villagers are divided over whether heavy machinery should be allowed to dig, which could further damage the bodies of their buried relatives, officials said.