Papua New Guinea landslide death toll climbs to 670

Landslide also buried around 150 houses

Stuti Mishra
Sunday 26 May 2024 12:14 BST
Volcano erupts in Papua New Guinea

The death toll from the devastating landslide in Papua New Guinea has crossed 670 as search and rescue crews continue to look for buried survivors and bodies.

The International Organisation for Migration said on Sunday that any hope of finding survivors is dwindling.

The UN agency’s mission head in the South Pacific island nation said the revised toll is based on calculations done by local officials in the Enga province.

“They are estimating that more than 670 people are under the soil at the moment,” Serhan Aktoprak told the Associated Press.

But only five bodies and the leg of a sixth victim have been recovered so far.

Mr Aktoprak said the estimate is “not solid” as it is based on average family size in the region but he would not speculate if the actual toll could be higher.

“It is difficult to say. We want to be quite realistic,” Mr Aktoprak said. “We do not want to come up with any figures that would inflate the reality.”

The officials have also revised their estimate of the number of homes destroyed by the landslide from 60 to 150.

Rescue workers and relatives said they have started losing hope of finding anyone alive as many people remain buried under six to eight metres of mud and rubble.

“People are coming to terms with this so there is a serious level of grieving and mourning,” Mr Aktoprak said.

The landslide struck around 3am local time on Friday and impacted six villages in the Mulitaka region, about 600km (370 miles) northwest of the capital Port Moresby.

Survivors have been moved to safer places as rescue work continues to be hindered by unstable ground and tribal warfare, which is rife in the Papua New Guinea Highlands.

At least eight people were killed in a clash between two rival clans on Saturday. The clash reportedly resulted from a longstanding dispute unrelated to the landslide.

Emergency convoys continued delivering food, water and other provisions to survivors over the weekend as the landslide destroyed large swathes of farmland and water sources.

The national government said it is considering whether to officially request more international support.

Additional reporting by agencies

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