Papua New Guinea landslide buries more than 2,000 people, officials say

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Papua New Guinea’s national disaster centre said on Monday that more than 2,000 people were buried alive after a massive landslide on Friday. The number of those buried around Yambali village in Enga province in the country’s north are based on estimates from local authorities, and have been steadily rising since the landslide last week.

On Sunday, a United Nations (UN) agency had put the estimated death toll at more than 670 people. That same day, the National Disaster Centre raised the toll to 2,000 in a letter to the UN, which was released publicly on Monday.

A woman in Papua New Guinea, Evit Kambu, said she lost 18 family members to the massive landslide. Kambu said on Sunday that she felt helpless as people searched around her to retrieve bodies, and added that she expected to lose more relatives from her village.

The International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) chief of mission in Papua New Guinea, Serhan Aktoprak, said some locals have been reluctant to welcome heavy machinery to remove debris in order to preserve the integrity of the corpses.

Treacherous terrain and the difficulty of getting aid to the site raises the possibility that few survivors will be found, the humanitarian organizations said. The remote location and nearby tribal warfare are also hampering relief efforts, they added.

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