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Hundreds Feared Dead in Papua New Guinea Landslide

Unstable rubble and debris were complicating search and rescue efforts in rural Papua New Guinea on Saturday, a day after a massive landslide buried villages and killed at least three people. Local officials said the death toll was likely to be at least in the hundreds.

Nearly 4,000 people live in the three villages engulfed by the landslide early Friday, said Sandis Tsaka, the provincial administrator for Enga, which includes the affected area. He said the death toll was likely to be high because the landslide hit a densely populated area that is also a highly trafficked corridor.

“Our people will consider it of biblical proportions,” he said. “We are looking for all the help and support we can get to address the humanitarian disaster of proportions we’ve never seen in this part of the world.”

Three bodies were pulled out of the rubble on Friday, and five people, including a child, were treated for their injuries, according to Mr. Tsaka.

The landslide struck around 3 a.m., catching most residents off guard and sending huge boulders, some larger than shipping containers, tumbling down. The landslide buried at least 60 homes under as much as 20 feet of debris, Mr. Tsaka said. At least a 500-foot section of the Porgera Highway, the main thoroughfare connecting the area, was inundated by the landslide, he said.

The villages, populated mostly by subsistence farmers, are in the highlands region of Papua New Guinea, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean north of Australia.

Mr. Tsaka said that the area was prone to smaller landslides, and in recent months, the weather had been continuously wet.

Heavy rain was forecast to continue pummeling the area in the coming days, further hampering rescue efforts. International organizations and the country’s defense forces were arriving to help, according to Mr. Tsaka.

Vincent Pyati, president of the local Community Development Association, said the area was a transport node where many came from remote areas overnight to catch public motor vehicles, a popular method of transit, probably adding to the toll. He said there was also a drinking club popular with people from all over the district.

Mr. Pyati said at least 300 people were estimated to have been killed.

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Nathan is an experienced journalist. He's covered a broad spectrum of topics, including politics, culture, and human interest stories, always aiming to engage and inform his audience. Nathan has a degree in Journalism and upholds the highest standards of integrity and accuracy in his work.

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