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Papua New Guinea Landslide Buried Thousands, Government Says


SYDNEY, Reuters: Papua New Guinea’s massive landslide buried more than 2,000 people, the government said on Monday, as treacherous terrain impeded aid and lowered hopes of finding survivors.

The National Disaster Centre gave the new number in a letter to the U.N., which had put possible deaths at more than 670.

The variance reflects the remote site and the difficulty in getting an accurate population estimate.

The Pacific island nation’s last credible census was in 2000 and many people live in isolated mountain villages.

Defence Minister Billy Joseph said 4,000 people had been living in the six remote villages in the Maip-Mulitaka area in Enga province, where the landslide occurred in the early hours of Friday while most were asleep.

More than 150 houses were buried beneath debris almost two storeys high. Rescuers heard screams from beneath the earth.

“I have 18 of my family members being buried under the debris and soil that I am standing on, and a lot more family members in the village I cannot count,” resident Evit Kambu told Reuters. “But I cannot retrieve the bodies so I am standing here helplessly.”

More than 72 hours after the landslide, residents were still using spades, sticks and bare hands to try and shift debris.

Only five bodies had been found, according to the provincial authority.