Papua New Guinea Evacuates After Thousands Feared Buried by Landslide

( – On May 28, thousands of Papua New Guinea residents were ordered to evacuate from the area where a landslide buried an estimated 2,000 people.

According to officials, heavy equipment, rescue teams, and aid have begun arriving in the area with the help of military escorts due to the uneven terrain and tribal unrest in the region. The landslide also left a highway into the area completely blocked. While people have been using their hands, digging sticks, and spades to dig for survivors after the May 24 mountain collapse that buried over 150 structures in the Maip-Mulitaka area in the northern Enga region of Papua New Guinea, officials warn the chances for survival are slim.

Enga province disaster committee chairperson Sandis Tsaka said the area where the landslide occurred is “very unstable,” adding that “there are still rocks and debris coming down.” An estimated 7,849 residents have been ordered to evacuate and helped to evacuation centers by military personnel.

Local community leader Miok Michael said, “People have been digging since day one.” However, he added that machines are needed to recover bodies buried below the debris. According to the United Nations, six bodies have been recovered.

PNG National Director of World Vision Chris Jensen said a “mountain literally fell on so many households” while people were asleep. PNG Country Director for the global humanitarian agency CARE International, Justine McMahon, added that the actual death toll “was still unknown” as estimates have continued to increase as rescue workers realized the full impact of the disaster.

Evit Kambu stated she had lost over a dozen members of her family in the landslide who are “buried under the debris and soil,” she added that because she “cannot retrieve the bodies,” she stands there “helplessly.”

While the cause of the landslide is unknown, University of Adelaide geology professor Alan Collins noted that the landslide occurred in a region of “considerable rainfall.”

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