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Papua New Guinea: Landslide puts thousands life at risk as hopes for survivor’s fade

Papua New Guinea: Landslide puts thousands life at risk as hopes for survivor’s fade

Papua New Guinea: Landslide puts thousands life at risk as hopes for survivor’s fade

Papua New Guinea: Landslide puts thousands life at risk as hopes for survivor’s fade

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  • Only six bodies have been recovered by Tuesday.
  • The continuous movement of rock and debris is making search and rescue operations a challenge.
  • The rubble is 10 meters deep in some places and continues to move down the hillside.
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Papua New Guinea authorities have warned nearly 7,900 people living near the site of a deadly landslide that they are “at risk” as rock and debris continue to move down the hillside. Officials have issued an alert for potential evacuation, stating that the mountain remains “very active.”

Rescuers increasingly doubt finding any victims alive in the rubble. The country’s disaster agency fears that about 2,000 people were buried when the mountainside collapsed last Friday, a number significantly higher than the UN’s estimate of about 670 victims.

The UN reports that establishing an exact death toll has been difficult due to limited access to the site and those buried under the mass. Various UN officials explain that complications surrounding the search and recovery mission have largely turned it into a body retrieval operation.

“It is not a rescue mission, it is a recovery mission,” Niels Kraaier from Unicef Papua New Guinea told the news agency. “It is very unlikely they will have survived.”

By Tuesday, local officials reported that they had only recovered six bodies. Villagers have been using shovels, sticks, and their bare hands to remove huge rocks and rubble due to delays in the arrival of heavy machinery and cultural sensitivities around using such machines near bodies.

Standing in a crowd of mourners on Monday, resident Jiman Yandam said people would continue digging manually to recover victims. “We don’t know where the bodies are buried, but we will not give up; we will keep going,” the former community leader told the news agency. One woman, standing in the wreckage, expressed feeling helpless.

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“I have 18 of my family members buried under the debris and soil that I am standing on, and a lot more family members in the village I cannot count,” Evit Kambu said.

“But I cannot retrieve the bodies so I am standing here helplessly.”

Rocks continue to fall, keeping the terrain dangerous. Videos taken during the day show rocks tumbling down the mountain. “It’s still very active. The mountain is breaking up,” Enga Provincial Administrator Sandis Tsaka told the BBC.

“There’s continuous movement of rock and debris which is making our search and rescue and recovery operations a challenge,” he added.

The rubble is 10 meters deep in some places and continues to move down the hillside. Authorities have alerted nearby communities to the risk and issued evacuation notices.

“Because of the landslide, the impact area of the landslide is gradually increasing. “So, every day, the number of homes and properties not affected by the original landslide area is growing,” Mr. Tsaka said.

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He said another village close to the first-hit Yambali village is now also in danger. The alarm is growing over the risk of infection and disease in the area as bodies trapped under the rubble begin to decay. The UN warned that currents are flowing down the hillside under the rubble.

“The water that is stuck between the ground and the debris is flowing – and the bodies are starting to decay. Can you image [the impact] on more than 2,000 bodies buried under this land- unable to be removed,” UN migration agency official Serhan Aktoprak told the news on Tuesday.

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