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United Nations estimates suggest that 150 plus houses may be under the landslide debris of six to eight metres deep in Papua New Guinea’s Enga region (ABC News)

A United Nations agency has confirmed more than 670 people are presumed dead following a landslide in Papua New Guinea’s highlands on Friday. Source: ABC News.

The International Organisation for Migration’s chief of mission in Papua New Guinea, Serhan Aktoprak, said the scale of the impact was much greater than initially thought.

“Now, the estimates suggest that 150 plus houses may be under the debris of six to eight metres deep. And they are fearing that approximately 670 plus people could have lost their lives,” Mr Aktoprak told ABC.

He said terrain surrounding the disaster zone in Enga province remained dangerous and unstable – prompting the evacuation of about 1,250 survivors.

The UN, government agencies, police and military personnel are assisting with the recovery.

Locals were digging with shovels, sticks and bare hands to find people they fear are buried beneath rubble and rock. 

Homes and two health centres lie underneath where the side of the mountain gave way on Friday. 

Local humanitarian groups say the long-term impact of the disaster is devastating. 

“People have lost their house, they’ve lost their food gardens, they’ve lost their loved ones,” CARE International PNG country director Justine McMahon said. 

“We understand health facilities have been destroyed.

“So that will really have an impact on people as well.”

But there are many obstacles to recovery, with loose soil still threatening nearby homes that have survived and roads into the village still remain obstructed, preventing excavators from getting to the site. 

“The recovery time is expected to be long, search and rescue efforts are complicated due to the nature of the terrain and the remote access,” UN humanitarian adviser Mate Bagossy told the ABC. 

Pope Francis is due to visit Papua New Guinea from September 6 to 9. He is scheduled to visit Port Moresby and Vanimo in the country’s far north-west.


More than 670 people now feared dead following landslide in Papua New Guinea’s highlands (By Marian Faa, ABC News)

Pope Francis’ PNG visit will bring much-needed hope, Archbishop of Port Moresby says (By Belinda Kora, ABC News)