Papua New Guinea orders evacuations as fear of second landslide looms

Over 2,000 are feared to be buried under the mud

Papua New Guinea landslide In this photo released by UNDP Papua New Guinea, villagers react as they search through a landslide in Yambali village, in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea | AP

The Papua New Guinea government had ordered evacuations on Tuesday after a massive landslide buried over 2,000 people under the mud. Further fears of a second landslide and disease outbreak also loom in Enga province. 

According to officials, the still-active landslides are posing a major challenge to the rescue operations.

It has been difficult to access the northern Enga region of the Pacific nation since Friday, said officials. The treacherous terrain was making it difficult for the heavy equipment and aid to arrive in the landslide-hit areas as well. 

Residents are using sticks, shovels and their bare hands to search for the survivors. "The landslide area is very unstable. When we're up there, we're regularly hearing big explosions where the mountain is, there are still rocks and debris coming down," Enga province disaster committee chairperson Sandis Tsaka told Reuters. 

According to the United Nations, only six bodies have been recovered so far. The total affected population, including those needing possible evacuation and relocation, was estimated at 7,849. 

A bridge collapsing on the main highway has again forced the aid convoys to take the longer route. 

Reportedly, around 8,000 people need to be evacuated. "My biggest fear at the moment is corpses are decaying, ... water is flowing and this is going to pose serious health risks in relation to contagious diseases," Aktoprak was quoted by Associated Press.

The Papua New Guinea government on Sunday officially asked the United Nations for additional help and to coordinate contributions from individual nations.

An Australian disaster response team is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday to assist the relief efforts. Australia's minister for the Pacific, Pat Conroy, said the government would also provide long-term logistical support for clearing debris, recovering bodies and supporting displaced people. The government announced an initial aid package of 2.5 million Australian dollars (USD 1.7 million).

India on Tuesday announced an immediate financial aid of USD 1 million to provide relief and assistance. 

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed deep condolences and conveyed India's readiness to extend all possible support and assistance to the Pacific island country in its time of difficulty.

"As a close friend and partner under the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) and as a gesture of solidarity with the friendly people of Papua New Guinea, the government of India extends an immediate relief assistance of USD 1 million to support relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts," MEA said in a statement.


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