Written by 12:15 World

Papua New Guinea to End Search for Landslide Victims

Two weeks after a landslide leveled a remote community in Papua New Guinea’s Enga Province, search and rescue operations are about to end, amid indications that the disaster was less devastating than previously thought.

So far, 11 bodies have been recovered, but crews have struggled to work through debris that covered an irregularly shaped area more than a third of a mile long. Aid workers have distributed food — rice, canned fish, cooking oil, sugar and salt — to about 3,000 people living near the site.

Geological experts from New Zealand have urged the authorities to evacuate a larger area because of the risk of another landslide, a United Nations agency said, adding that the search for victims is scheduled to end on Friday.

“The provincial government will cease searching for bodies due to public health risks and the potential for new landslides, as the soil remains unstable,” the International Organization for Migration, a United Nations agency, said in a statement late Wednesday. “The unrecovered bodies will be declared missing persons, and the landslide site will be designated a mass burial site with monuments erected.”

The true death toll from the landslide may never be known. Two days after the disaster, the United Nations estimated that about 670 people had perished. Then came a much higher projection, from local officials, of more than 2,000 dead.

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Last modified: 6 June 2024
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