Locals at the landslide site in Enga province, PNG
Australia has sent a specialist disaster team and supplies to PNG to help after a deadly landslide. Image by EPA PHOTO
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Casualty confusion after PNG landslide as aid arrives

Dominic Giannini May 29, 2024

Australia and aid organisations are helping Papua New Guinea after a devastating landslide believed to have killed thousands of people but the actual death toll remains murky.

More than 2000 people are estimated to have been buried alive in a landslide in the remote Enga province, a PNG official has told the United Nations as the country asked for international help.

But exact casualties are unclear, with local councillor and chairman of a disaster committee Jaman Yandam revising the death count to around 160.

The revised figure came after a head count of people missing from villages, he told the ABC.

An RAAF Hercules plane transported the Australian team, which specialises in incident control and logistics, Pacific Minister Pat Conroy said. 

“I’m afraid to say we’re mainly in the territory of retrieving bodies rather than saving people,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

“What we’ve got is 160 buildings across a few villages are wiped out under a landslide that’s buried them six to eight metres deep.

“The site is still very unstable with more landslides occurring.”

Further aid from international donors, after Australia pledged an initial $2.5 million package, to respond to the disaster was needed, Save the Children said. 

“We are extremely concerned about the impact of this devastating landslide on children and their families in the affected area of Enga Province, as this has fast become one of the worst disasters ever to hit PNG,” the organisation’s acting country director Dea Bickey said.

“As the challenging situation in Enga continues to unfold, the needs of the affected communities are growing, with essentials such as shelter, food, water, and basic household items the most pressing in the immediate term.”

Save the Children will aid in distributing shelter and hygiene kits as well as household items.

Around 8000 people have been displaced due to the landslide, Mr Conroy said, as he confirmed 750 large family shelters had been transported up to the province along with food, water and sanitation. 

“We’ve got 77 pallets going on RAAF aircraft that we’ve transported from our emergency warehouse in Port Moresby up to Mount Hagen today as well,” he said.

“So we are pouring huge resources into this to support what is a very grim situation.”

PNG parliamentarians held a minute’s silence for the victims.