Papua New Guinea estimates that more than 2,000 people were buried in last week's landslide

Papua New Guinea estimates that more than 2,000 people were buried in last week's landslide

More than 2,000 people may have been buried in a landslide on Friday, a government official in South Africa told the United Nations on Monday. Papua New Guineawhich officially requested international help.

The government figure is about three times higher than the United Nations estimate of 670 dead in the landslide in the mountainous interior of the South Pacific island nation. At the moment only the remains of six people have been recovered.

In a letter to which he had access The Associated Press addressed to the resident coordinator of the United Nations, dated Sunday, Center Luseta Laso Mana, the acting director of the National Disaster Center, said that the landslide “he buried alive more than 2,000 people” and caused “great destruction” in the town of Yambaliin the province of Enga.

Casualty estimates have varied widely since the disaster struck, and it was initially unclear how authorities had arrived at the number of people affected.

The International Organization for Migrationwhich worked closely with the government and led the international response, has not changed its estimate of 670 deaths, in the absence of new evidence.

“We cannot question what the government is suggesting, but we cannot comment on it,” said Serhan Aktoprak, head of the delegation in Papua New Guinea of the immigration agency UN.

“As time goes on in such a huge operation, the number will continue to vary,” Aktoprak added.

The figure of 670 was determined based on calculations by Yambali and Enga officials that more than 150 houses had been buried by the landslide. The previous estimate was 60 houses.

The office of the prime minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marapedid not respond Monday to a request for details on what the estimate of 2,000 victims was based on.

Determine the scale of the disaster is difficult because of the complicated conditions in placesuch as the remote location of the town, the lack of telecommunications and tribal fighting in the province that mean that international aid workers and aid convoys require military escort.

He landslide It also buried a 200-meter (650-foot) stretch of the province's main highway under between 6 and 8 meters (20 to 26 feet) of dirt and debris, posing a major obstacle for emergency workers.

Mana said the landslide would have a major impact on the entire country.

“The situation remains unstable” because the land continues to shift, “posing a risk to both rescue teams and survivors,” Mana wrote to the United Nations.

An excavator donated Sunday by a local builder became the first piece of heavy machinery to arrive to help neighbors, who were digging with shovels and farm tools to search for bodies. Working on ground that is still shifting is dangerous.

Mana and Papua New Guinea Defense Minister Billy Joseph flew on Sunday in an Australian military helicopter from the capital, Port Moresby, to Yambali, about 600 kilometers (370 miles) northwest, to assess firsthand what was needed. .

Landslide in Papua New

Mana's office posted an image of the disaster management official handing a local official a check for 500,000 kina ($130,000) to buy emergency supplies for the 4,000 displaced survivors.

The visit was intended to determine whether the government needed to officially request more international aid.

Land-moving equipment used by the country's military was being moved from the eastern coastal city of Lae, 400 kilometers (250 miles) away.

There is division among traumatized local residents over whether heavy machinery should be allowed to be used, which could cause further damage to the bodies of their buried relatives, according to authorities.