Hundreds feared dead in massive PNG landslide

RNZ Pacific Correspondent Scott Waide confirmed reports of multiple deaths and many houses...
RNZ Pacific Correspondent Scott Waide confirmed reports of multiple deaths and many houses destroyed. Photo: Facebook / Amos Titus
By Eleisha Foon

Scores of people have died in a huge landslide which has struck a remote village in Papua New Guinea.

The landslide reportedly hit Yambali village in Enga Province, about 600 kilometres north-west of Port Moresby.

The landslip has buried homes and food gardens, leaving what locals say an estimated 3000 buried under a mass landslide.

Papua New Guinea authorities are yet to officially confirm the number of deaths.

Residents on the ground say they have lost family members and are retrieving bodies.

Community leader Jethro Tulin told RNZ Pacific the catastrophe wiped out the village, which has a population of around three-thousand.

"It was a massive landslide... occurred around 3am last night (Friday). People were sleeping...the whole village is covered."

He said a team from Wabag, the provincial capital, has been sent to investigate the scene.

The ABC first reported that residents said they estimate "100-plus" deaths but authorities are yet to confirm this figure.

Yambali village is a two hour drive from the Porgera Gold mine.

The catastrophic destruction is blocking access to the mine, forcing a usually bustling operation to come to a stand still.

The main highway to Porgera has also been closed off.

Special equipment needed to retrieve bodies

Another resident told RNZ Pacific locals are trying to retrieve bodies but require heavy-duty equipment to remove massive rocks and debris and are awaiting government and NGO support.

They say it could take weeks to recover thousands of bodies trapped under a landslide.

A nearby resident Mick Michael said rescue efforts will likely turn to recovery efforts for bodies.

"I think two or three people were discovered already. It is an entire community buried by the landslide.

"You can estimate 3000 people buried. It is really a big landslides with big rocks. Within a week or so it will take time to discover those bodies with the help of machines and trucks."

He said locals are calling on the government of Papua New Guinea and NGO's for support.

Images on social media platform Facebook show the enormity of the landslide, with debris across houses and vehicles left in the wake of falling boulders and trees.