Papua New Guinea landslide: Once lively community left with ‘pile of rocks’

The landslide is “still very active” and people are waiting on evacuation orders while looking for family members under the rubble.

Thousands of people near the site of a huge landslide in Papua New Guinea have been told to be ready for evacuation in case of further landslides.

The area is home to nearly 8000 people, 2000 of whom are thought to have been buried alive on Friday.

Some people in the most high-risk areas were already being evacuated, Enga provincial disaster committee chair and provincial administrator Sandis Tsaka told RNZ Pacific

He said any recovery efforts had been paused while people were being evacuated.

Tsaka, who has been at the disaster site twice, said the landslide was “still very active and ongoing”.

He said rocks breaking sounded like bombs or gunshots.

“It’s terrible, it’s scary. What used to be a densely populated community area with an abundance of life with schools and kids is now looking like the surface of the moon, a pile of rocks.

“It’s sad, it’s a level of devastation that we’ve never seen in this part of the world.”

Women grieving at Yambali village where about 2000 people are buried.

A blocked main highway and dangerous operating conditions have prevented heavy machinery from being used on site which has meant local villagers have been attempting to recover loved ones with their bare hands.

Five bodies have been recovered and a limb from a sixth person in the four days since the landslide, Tsaka said.

He said he was was mindful of further health hazards as bodies decayed, so time was of the essence.

A state of emergency has been declared for the disaster area and the military have taken control.

Tsaka said the military were not only providing security but are also leading the emergency work with the engineering battalion, fire service, police and emergency medical team.

“They’re working to move people to the two care centres for the displaced people.”

Tsaka said villagers were frustrated that they were being moved and recovery had been halted.

“They would like to recover family members and dead bodies that they’ve lost, so that they can give them a decent and traditional burial, but we are mindful of the risk to them.

“They understand the situation. We’ve been engaging with them daily while we’re providing relief, medical and basic food and water items.

“We’re talking to them about the challenges we all have as we work toward recovering the bodies.”

The ground is still moving at the landslide site in Yambali village in Enga province.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Papua New Guinea resident representative Nicholas Booth said it was a “distressing and difficult situation”.

“It’s a very complicated situation because the landslide is still moving, the terrain is still moving,” Booth said.

“It’s unsafe for everybody there, but it’s also unsafe for rescue workers and it makes it particularly difficult to do the thing which is the urgent next priority, which is to bring heavy equipment to the site to start moving the rubble and the debris.”

Booth said the landslide has blocked about a 150m portion of the road which had blocked village access to Porgera – about a 60km stretch.

“In addition to the 8000-odd people who are directly affected by this landslide, there’s another 30,000 or 40,000 living [by] the rest of the road all the way to Porgera.”

Booth said there were enough supplies for a couple of weeks but moving the road had become an urgent priority.

“This is a particularly difficult landslide, a very difficult operation.”

Booth said food and clean water was a premium for everyone at the impact site.

“After that, I think the next needs are shelter, medical supplies, clothing and psychosocial support, because every single person in that area is extremely traumatised.”

Meanwhile, a joint statement from New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters and Defence Minister Judith Collins said New Zealand was offering support valued at NZ$1.5 million.

The statement said New Zealand would deploy a New Zealand Defence Force C-130 aircraft carrying relief supplies, along with New Zealand technical expertise to assist and financial assistance.

“Ever since learning of the horrendous landslide on Friday, New Zealand has been determined to play our part in assisting Papua New Guinea’s response,” Peters said.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button