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20 Jun 2024 10:51
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  •   Home > News > International

    Huge landslide strikes remote village in Papua New Guinea, with 100 people feared dead

    Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong says Australia is ready to assist in recovery efforts after a huge landslide struck the remote Kaokalam Village in Papua New Guinea, leaving more than 100 people estimated dead.


    Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong says Australia is ready to assist in recovery efforts after a huge landslide struck a remote village in Papua New Guinea.

    "The loss of life and destruction is devastating. As friends and partners, Australia stands ready to assist in relief and recovery efforts," Senator Wong said.

    Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham said the opposition would give full bipartisan support to assistance efforts in PNG.

    The landslide hit Kaokalam Village in Enga Province, about 600 kilometres north-west of Port Moresby, about 3am.

    Residents estimated the death toll to be above 100, though the government has not released official figures.

    PNG Prime Minister James Marape expressed sympathy for the families of people killed in the disaster.

    "I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the landslide disaster," Mr Marape said.

    The prime minister said he was yet to be fully briefed on the situation but that relevant authorities were working diligently to address the disaster.

    "We are sending in disaster officials, PNG Defence Force, and the Department of Works and Highways to meet provincial and district officials in Enga and also start relief work, recovery of bodies, and reconstruction of infrastructure."

    The Enga Provincial administration said it had also assembled an emergency response team to undertake a rapid impact assessment of the damage.

    It called on local health facilities and NGOs to be on stand-by to assist with recovery and relief efforts.

    Elizabeth Iarume, the president of the Porgera Women in Business Association, said houses were flattened when the side of a nearby mountain gave way.

    "It has occurred when people were still asleep in the early hours and the entire village has gone down," Ms Laruma said.

    "From what I can presume, it's about 100-plus people who are buried beneath the ground."

    Papua New Guinea police have not responded to the ABC's request for comment.

    Humanitarian organisation CARE Australia provides support in Enga Province.

    In a statement the organisation said "while the area is not densely populated, our concern is that the death toll could be disproportionately high".

    "Highway access near Yambali Village is obstructed, which will likely take considerable time to clear. This will hinder assessment and relief efforts."

    Ninga Role, who is from Kaokalam but is attending university in Madang, said he received news of the damage this morning.

    He estimates at least four of his relatives have been killed in the landslide.

    [DATAWRAPPER MAP]

    "I feel very sad. And I feel sad for the whole community," he told the ABC.

    "They have lost their lives, their loved ones, their properties."

    Residents says it's hard to locate bodies

    Videos shared on social media show residents scaling huge rocks and pulling bodies from rubble and beneath trees.

    But it is difficult work, according to Mr Role.

    "There are some huge stones and plants, trees. The buildings [have] collapsed," he said.

    "These things are making it hard to find the bodies fast."

    The landslide has also blocked an access road to the town of Porgera, where a large gold mine is located.

    Mine operator, Barrick Gold Corporation, told ABC the extent of the damage was still being assessed and the impact on mining operations was not yet known.

    "We are supporting provincial authorities in their assessment and initial response efforts. Porgera currently has sufficient supplies at site to operate normally in the short term," a spokesperson said.

    Ms Iarume said people in the area were concerned about access to goods and services.

    "When this road is being closed off – and I don't know how long it's going to take – it's going to have a really big impact on the people out there in terms of goods, fuel and services," she said.

    "It's going to have a big impact on the lives of the people of Porgera and the mine as well."

    She has called on the PNG government and non-governmental organisations to assist with immediate relief to the area.

    A DFAT spokesperson said the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby has been contacting local authorities to determine whether any Australians have been impacted by the landslide. 

    © 2024 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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