Around 2000 people feared buried in Papua New Guinea landslide

Papua New Guinea: Around 2000 people are feared to have been buried by the massive landslide that hit Papua New Guinea, reported CNN, citing the country’s National Disaster Centre.

The rescuers have been struggling to find any survivors in the remote region.

The landslide occurred in the mountainous Enga region in northern Papua New Guinea on Friday last week and the latest figure is a sharp rise from earlier estimates.

Soon after the disaster occurred, the United Nations confirmed that as many as 100 people may have died.

However, it was later revised up to 670, according to estimates from the Chief of Mission for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in the country, CNN reported.

But that may now be a major underestimate, according to the latest projection from Papua New Guinea’s disaster agency.

“The landslide buried more than 2000 people alive, caused major destruction to buildings, food gardens and caused major impact on the economic lifeline of the country,” Lusete Laso Mana, Acting Director of the National Disaster Centre, said in a letter to the UN.

“The situation remains unstable as the landslip continues to shift slowly, posing ongoing danger to both rescue teams and survivors alike,” he said, adding that the main highway to the area had been completely blocked by the landslide.

“Following the inspection conducted by the team, it was determined that the damages are extensive and require immediate and collaborative actions from all players,” Mana said, reported CNN.

The landslide hit the remote village of Kaokalam, about 600 kilometres (372 miles) northwest of the capital Port Moresby, at approximately 3 am local time on Friday, leaving a scar of debris that humanitarian workers said was as big as four football pitches.

Over 150 houses in Yambali village were buried in debris, according to the officials.

The area continues to pose an “extreme risk,” officials added, as rocks continue to fall and the ground soil is exposed to constant increased pressure.

Notably, Papua New Guinea is home to around 10 million people. Its vast mountainous terrain and lack of roads have made it difficult to access the affected area.

Pierre Rognon, an associate professor from the University of Sydney’s School of Civil Engineering, stressed that it’s “particularly challenging” for rescuers to find survivors after a landslide.

“Landslides can bury collapsed structures and people under dozens of metres of geomaterials,” he said.

“To make things worse, they can move structures and trap people over hundreds of metres. No one can predict exactly where potential survivors may be located or where to start looking for them.”

It’s not clear what caused the landslide, but geology professor Alan Collins from the University of Adelaide said it occurred in a region of “considerable rainfall.”

“Although the landslide does not appear to have been directly triggered by an earthquake, frequent earthquakes caused by plates colliding build steep slopes and high mountains that can become very unstable,” Collins said.

Collins added that the rainfall could have altered the minerals, making the bedrock weakening the rock that forms the steep hillsides, as reported by CNN.

“Vegetation mitigates this as tree roots can stabilise the ground and deforestation can make landslides more prevalent by destroying this biological mesh,” he said.–(ANI)

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