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UN agency fears 670 dead after Papua New Guinea landslide



No less than 670 people were feared death after a landslide in Papua New Guinea, an International Organisation for Migration (IOM) between Friday and Sunday, official said on Sunday.

“The landslide buried more than 2,000 people alive and caused major destruction to buildings,’’ an official from the country’s National Disaster Centre said in a letter to the UN seen by dpa on Monday.

Aktoprak, the IOM’s head of mission for the Pacific country, told Australian broadcaster ABC that the scale of the impact was much greater than initially thought.

Several villages in the province of Enga were hit when part of a mountain collapsed in the early hours of Friday in the remote central highlands of Papua New Guinea.

More than 3,000 people live in the affected area, according to reports.

Terrain surrounding the disaster zone in Enga province remains dangerous and unstable, prompting the evacuation of about 1,250 survivors, Aktoprak said.

“This, coupled with the heavy bulk of soil that had already landed earlier, is putting pressure on the surrounding houses, hence the evacuation of those,” he said.

Recovery efforts continue, involving national emergency response teams, police, the army and the UN.

Aktoprak described the difficulties at the scene, saying people had to “run away from the site because of the increased danger as rocks nonstop keep falling and the land continues to slide.”

Papua New Guinea, with a population of almost 10 million people, lies just north of Australia.

In spite of being rich in minerals, timber, oil and gas, its history of colonialism, political instability and mismanagement of resources has kept its people impoverished.

Cecilia Odey

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