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Papua New Guinea landslide: Survivors 'unlikely', says UN official as rescue mission transitions to recovery

Papua New Guinea authorities estimate that approximately 2,000 individuals are at risk of being buried under the debris of a landslide that obliterated a remote highland settlement on May 24th.

Papua New Guinea landslide: Survivors 'unlikely', says UN official as rescue mission transitions to recovery snt
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First Published May 28, 2024, 11:56 AM IST

The chances of finding more survivors of the devastating landslide in Papua New Guinea are now deemed "very unlikely," according to a UN official speaking to AFP on Tuesday. Niels Kraaier from UNICEF Papua New Guinea stated that the operation has shifted from rescue to recovery.

"It is not a rescue mission, it is a recovery mission. It is very unlikely they will have survived," he said.

Papua New Guinea authorities estimate that approximately 2,000 individuals are at risk of being buried under the debris of a landslide that obliterated a remote highland settlement on May 24th.

Enga provincial administrator Sandis Tsaka cautioned that the situation could deteriorate further due to challenges in conducting rescue and relief operations, including the remote location, a severed road link, persistent heavy rainfall, and ongoing tribal conflicts nearby.

As a precautionary measure, around 7,900 residents from surrounding remote villages are being evacuated, as the ground near the landslide continues to shift.

"The tragedy is still active," Tsaka was quoted as saying in an AFP report. "Every hour you can hear rock breaking -- it is like a bomb or gunshot and the rocks keep falling down."

"This was an area heavily populated with homes, businesses, churches and schools, it has been completely wiped out. It is the surface of the moon -- it is just rocks," Tsaka added.

Also read: 'Deeply saddened': EAM S Jaishankar expresses condolences as 2,000 killed in Papua New Guinea landslide

Nicholas Booth, a representative from the UN Development Programme, highlighted that despite the risks, numerous individuals have opted to stay behind, clinging to hope for their missing relatives. He emphasized that the current priority is the swift distribution of aid and the restoration of the impacted region, as relayed to AFP.

Looking ahead, Booth stressed the necessity for geological surveys to assess the situation comprehensively, determining the scale of permanent relocation required for those residing in vulnerable areas.

"This landslide has blocked the road westward, so not only are there challenges in accessing the village itself, but it does mean the communities beyond that are also cut off," he told the news agency.

Officials indicated that the isolated communities, housing up to 30,000 individuals, currently possess adequate supplies to last for the next few weeks. However, they cautioned that the situation may deteriorate over the ensuing months.

Plans are in place for police and defense forces to access the site by Tuesday, intending to secure the most hazardous zones.

Meanwhile, aid agencies are mobilizing efforts to deliver essential provisions such as food, clean water, medical supplies, and educational materials.

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