Papua New Guinea Fears Over 2,000 Dead in Landslide

(ReliableNews.org) – Landslides are a major risk in mountainous regions across the world. They even happen in the United States, in places like California, after a severe rainstorm. In Papua New Guinea, a recent landslide reportedly killed thousands.

On Friday, May 24, a landslide hit Kaokalam and five other villages at about 3 a.m. local time when the people were fast asleep. In the aftermath of the disaster, the United Nations (UN) estimated approximately 670 people died. However, a government official later told the international body that the number was nearly triple that.

Papua New Guinea’s acting director of the National Disaster Center, Luseta Laso Mana, told the UN that the landslide “buried more than 2,000 people alive.” Mana didn’t explain how the government reached the number of fatalities.

Trying to figure out the exact death toll is difficult because there aren’t accurate population estimates for the isolated villages. The last time the island conducted a credible census was in 2000, 24 years ago. The UN has not updated its death toll but said it would likely increase as the bodies of more victims are recovered. Only half a dozen bodies were recovered in the days after the disaster.

Nicholas Booth, the UN Development Program’s resident representative, said that neither the UN nor the Papua New Guinea government have been able to verify the casualties. He said they are holding “out hope of finding survivors” but as time goes on, it seems less likely. The country has asked for help, including geotechnical engineers who will assess the hazards as the search continues.

The UN also announced almost 7,900 people were impacted by the landslide. Many of the victims were under the age of 16. They need clothing, medicine, and food.

UNICEF Papua New Guinea’s Niels Kraaier said the kids in the region “have been deeply traumatized by the loss of their families, homes and livelihoods.”

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