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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Aid reaches PNG deadly landslide site

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Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea – Supplies of food and medicine began arriving at the scene of a deadly landslide in Papua New Guinea Wednesday, with aid workers discovering children rendered mute by the shock of the disaster.

Papua New Guinea’s government estimates that as many as 2,000 people may be buried underneath a massive landslide that struck a thriving highland settlement in Enga province in the early hours of May 24.

Only six bodies have so far been pulled from the mountain of churned-up earth after days of frantic digging with makeshift tools.

Difficulties getting aid and supplies to the site — and the speed of the government response — has stoked a mix of desperation and frustration on the ground.

Community leader Miok Michael told AFP that 19 of his “family members and relatives” were missing and feared dead.

“The relief support and donations are slowly reaching the affected site,” said Michael, who recently visited the disaster zone.

“But displaced people are still crying and calling for help. There is no proper house for them to sleep, all their houses were buried.”

With rescue teams abandoning hope of finding survivors under the metres of mud and rubble, the community has started to count the emotional and physical cost.

Mourning locals have started carrying the dead away in immense “haus krai” funeral processions, collective outpourings of love and grief that can last for weeks.

Images showed a group of men carrying a wooden casket down the forested valley on their shoulders as scores of mourners trailed behind them, wailing with despair.

Aid groups fear children will bear the brunt of the catastrophe, estimating that 40 percent of residents in the area are younger than 16.

“What we are hearing is that, because of what they saw and experienced, many of the children have stopped talking,” Justine McMahon from CARE Papua New Guinea told AFP. AFP

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