Hundreds Feared Dead after Landslide Buries Entire Village

( – On Friday, May 24th, a landslide buried more than 2000 people in Papua New Guinea. The tragedy occurred in the remote Yambali village in Enga province. Enga governor Peter Ipatas said the “unprecedented natural disaster” buried more than 100 homes with mountains of debris and rock.

The exact death toll cannot be determined or even properly estimated as an accurate census has not been held in the nation since the year 2000. The U.N. estimates 670 have been killed by the landslide, while the government says the number is closer to 2000. By Monday, the remains of five people had been discovered.

A large portion of the main highway through the village is covered under 20-26 feet of debris severely hampering rescue and recovery operations. Until a local villager donated an excavator on Sunday, villagers were digging with shovels, farm tools, and their hands to uncover the bodies of loved ones. The ground continues to shift creating dangerous conditions for survivors and rescue teams. Bringing in more heavy equipment used by the military is challenging because of the covered highway and a collapsed bridge.

Papua New Guinea’s defense minister Billy Joseph flew to Yambali in an Australian military helicopter on Sunday to present a $130,000 check to local officials to be used for emergency supplies and aid for 4000 displaced survivors. The country has officially asked for international assistance.

Drone footage of the disaster area released on Tuesday shows people pacing and searching for loved ones in the rubble. Serhan Aktoprak with the International Organization for Migration’s mission in Papua New Guinea said the area remains extremely dangerous and they are being warned of another potential landslide and the need to evacuate 8000 people. Itayi Viriri, another spokesperson, said there are fears that the water supply for the regions further down the mountain from the landslide could be contaminated by the bodies that have been buried. He added that the situation needs to be dealt with.

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