Landslide in Papua New Guinea Kills at Least 670, 2,000 Buried Alive

( – Officials of the southwestern Pacific country of Papua New Guinea have estimated that at least 2,000 people were buried alive after a massive landslide utterly destroyed the Yambali village located in the country’s Enga province.

The national government, headed by Prime Minister James Marape, has formally requested help from the United Nations and other countries.

The United Nations’ death toll estimate is much lower at around 670 people, but the true scope of the damage the catastrophe has caused has yet to be fully determined. Video of the site of the landslide shows the intense scope and enormity of the devastation, as thousands of volunteers and workers struggle to unearth the buried village. Officials say that around 150 houses were crushed by large rocks and soil from the nearby mountain where the village is located.

Addressing the large disparity in the estimate casualties, the chief of the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration in Papua New Guinea, Serhan Aktoprak, said that they will not dispute the local government’s numbers. The U.N.’s migrant agency, which is serving as the lead in the international response to the incident, said it will be sticking to its estimate for the moment, pending other developments. Papua New Guinea’s national government said that it will also provide updates of its own as new information becomes available. One challenge to determining the number of casualties are a lack of census data – a census has not been held in the country for several years, and estimates for the Papua New Guinea’s total population range from anywhere to 10 million to 17 million.

Yambali is located in a fairly remote and mountainous region of the country, which poses additional challenges and dangers for rescue teams, especially since officials say that much of the mountainside is still unstable. As of press time, only five bodies have been recovered, and emergency response teams have resorted to using large earth-moving equipment to better excavate whatever remains of the village. Survivors also have to contend with shortages of basic necessities, including water and electricity.

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