Papua New Guinea landslide: 670 feared dead, says UN migration agency


Photo caption: Hundreds were buried in a landslide in Yambali village, Papua New Guinea, on May 24, 2024

Credit: IOM/ Mohamud Omer


Friday’s landslide in the north of Papua New Guinea is likely to have been far more deadly than first thought, Serhan Aktoprak, the country head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Sunday.

In a media interview, Mr. Aktoprak said that the community in Yambali village, situated at the foot of a mountain in the remote Enga Province, is buried under between six to eight metres of soil.

150 houses are believed to be buried, said the senior UN official, around 90 more than previously reported. Some 670 people are believed to be under the soil and “hopes of finding them alive are shrinking”.

IOM has six aid workers on site, alongside personnel from other UN agencies, NGOs and government agencies. The conditions remain dangerous for the workers; water continues to run down the mountain, and the land is still sliding. Falling boulders are also affecting relief efforts.

The landslide has displaced around 1,000 people, and it is feared that the death toll will rise. Mr. Aktoprak said that helpers are using any available implements, such as spades and sticks, in an attempt to locate bodies.

Debris covering large stretches of the single highway into Enga Province has limited access to the rescue site, but heavy machinery is expected to arrive on Sunday to assist in recovery efforts.

In a statement released on Saturday, the United Nations Office in Papua New Guinea said that communications infrastructure and access roads to the affected site have been damaged.

An Emergency Response Coordination Team has been set up to coordinate and lead relief efforts, comprising the Enga Provincial Disaster Coordination Office, the Department of Health, Department of Provincial Works, police, Defence Force, and the United Nations.

An initial rapid impact assessment conducted by the Team identified immediate need for food, shelter and medical supplies.

“The United Nations is monitoring the situation very closely, in collaboration with national and provincial government authorities, including other partners to determine the extent of damage, casualties and possible assistance that may be required for those impacted”, the statement concluded.