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Officials Report Over 2,000 Buried in Papua New Guinea Landslide; International Help Sought

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Ayize claire

May 27, 2024

Prime Minister James Marape’s office has not explained the basis of the 2,000

A government official in Papua New Guinea has informed the United Nations that over 2,000 people are believed to have been buried alive by Friday's devastating landslide. The government has formally requested international assistance.

This figure significantly exceeds the UN's estimate of 670 casualties in the mountainous interior of the South Pacific island nation. So far, only six bodies have been recovered.

Casualty estimates have varied widely, and the method of determining the number of affected individuals remains unclear. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), working closely with the government on the international response, maintains its estimate of 670 deaths until further evidence is provided.

“We cannot dispute the government’s suggestion, but we are unable to comment on it,” said Serhan Aktoprak,

chief of the UN migrant agency's mission in Papua New Guinea. He noted that the numbers could fluctuate as the situation develops.

The initial death toll of 670 was based on reports from Yambali village and Enga provincial officials, citing over 150 homes buried by the landslide. The previous estimate was 60 homes.

Prime Minister James Marape’s office has not explained the basis of the 2,000 figure but promised to release more information about the disaster's scale when available.

Challenges in determining the disaster's scope include the remote location, poor telecommunications, and ongoing tribal warfare. In February, at least 26 tribal warriors and mercenaries were killed in a battle between two warring tribes in Enga, with additional unconfirmed casualties among bystanders.

Accurate casualty figures are further complicated by the lack of reliable census data. The government estimates the population at 10 million, while a 2022 UN study suggested it could be as high as 17 million, using satellite imagery of rooftops.

The landslide buried a 200-meter stretch of the province's main highway under 6 to 8 meters of debris, creating significant obstacles for relief efforts.

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