After the landslide in Papua New Guinea: “The number of victims…

Thousands have to leave the disaster zone. Only six bodies were recovered in the remote area. There is no hope for survivors. The focus of aid must now be on survivors.

A landslide in the highlands of Papua New Guinea threatens further debris avalanches, which could kill more than 2,000 people. The United Nations in the Pacific island nation said on Tuesday that thousands of survivors in the region must be urgently evacuated or relocated as the earth is still moving. On Friday night, part of a mountain in Enga province collapsed into a valley, taking an entire village with it.

New, dangerous landslides could hit the region at any moment, Matt Bagosi of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), who is working at the scene, told the BBC. The local civil defense agency on Monday put the number of people buried at at least 2,000. A suspect number due to the affected area (three times the size of Vienna’s Stephensplatz) and settlement density. Australian Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marless told parliament in Canberra on Tuesday: “But the truth is, we’ll never know for sure. But we do know there are thousands of people who are homeless right now and need our help.”

Search operation in the affected area.Reuters / Undp Papua New Guinea

Rescue work continues

Meanwhile, many helpers dig in the mud with their bare hands and shovels, searching for signs of life under several meters of rubble – but so far always in vain: due to the difficult conditions and the lack of heavy equipment, only six casualties have been recovered. “However, despite unstable conditions, the number is expected to rise as rescue efforts continue,” the UN said.

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“The probability of finding survivors is decreasing hour by hour,” said a spokesman for the UN children’s fund Unicef. “It appears that the initial rescue mission has now turned into a rescue operation.”

Survivors of great distress

Survivors now urgently need clean water, food, clothing, shelter, medicine and psychological support. Videos show rotting residents rubbing their faces with a yellow paste made from mud as a sign of mourning in parts of Papua New Guinea. Evid Gambu, an elderly woman from the devastated Yambali community, told the BBC that 18 family members were buried under stones and dirt. Countless friends from her village were also buried. She feels completely helpless.

High rainfall is not unusual on a tropical island because of its proximity to the equator. This is why landslides happen again and again – but never on such a scale. Papua New Guinea also lies on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, one of the most seismically active zones on Earth. A few days before the landslide, a 4.5-magnitude earthquake struck Enga province.

Neighboring countries are sending humanitarian aid

Australia has announced it will provide 2.5 million Australian dollars (1.5 million euros) in humanitarian aid to its northern neighbour. New Zealand pledged 1.5 million New Zealand dollars (850,000 euros) on Tuesday. “As a close neighbor and friend, we will do all we can,” Australian Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles wrote in X. Australian Defense Forces provided assistance coordination with their counterparts in Papua New Guinea. (APA/dpa)

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