Papua New Guinea Landslide Has Buried 2,000 People, Officials Say

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Over the weekend, the agency estimated that, on top of the toll of dead and missing, more than 250 houses had been abandoned as residents feared additional slippage, with roughly 1,250 people displaced.

Just getting to survivors has proved to be an enormous challenge. An aid convoy reached the area on Saturday afternoon to deliver tarps and water, but no food. On Sunday, the local government secured food and water for around 600 people, according to the U.N., but heavy equipment still had not made it through, leaving people to search for bodies on dangerous, unstable debris using small shovels and pitchforks.

Tribal feuds have also added to the post-disaster safety risks.

Ruth Kissam, a community organizer in Enga Province, said giant boulders fell from the land of one tribe onto a residential town occupied by another tribe.

“There will be tension,” she said. “There is already tension.”

Even before the disaster, the region had been experiencing tribal clashes that led people to flee surrounding villages, with many ending up concentrated in the community buried in the landslide. In September of last year, much of Enga was in a government lockdown and under a curfew, with no flights in or out.

Now, as the search for the dead and living continues, anger and violence have been intensifying.

On Saturday morning, a quarrel flared between two clans, leaving people dead and dozens of houses burned down, said Serhan Aktoprak, the chief of mission at the International Organization for Migration’s office in Papua New Guinea. He added that the threat of violence makes it harder to deliver aid.