Landslide Tragedy Strikes Village in Papua New Guinea

 May 25, 2024

In Papua New Guinea, a devastating landslide engulfed Kaokalam village in Enga province, claiming the lives of over a hundred people.

According to NBC News, the calamity occurred while the villagers were asleep, causing widespread destruction and prompting urgent relief operations.

Early in the morning, around 3 a.m. local time, the village of Kaokalam, situated roughly 370 miles northwest of the capital, Port Moresby, was hit by a massive landslide. The exact number of victims remains unconfirmed, but initial estimates suggest that the death toll may exceed 100 individuals.

Prime Minister James Marape Reacts to The Catastrophe

Prime Minister James Marape has expressed deep sorrow over the incident. He assured that governmental disaster response teams, the PNG Defense Force, and the Department of Works and Highways are being deployed to aid in the recovery and reconstruction efforts.

Elizabeth Laruma, a local official, described the incident as happening "when people were still asleep in the early hours, and the entire village has gone down. From what I can presume, it’s about 100-plus people who are buried beneath the ground."

The landslide has left the village's infrastructure in ruins, with homes and other structures buried under mud and debris. Current reports indicate that the only way to access the impacted area is by helicopter, given that the landslide has blocked the primary roads.

This access difficulty aggravates the situation, potentially delaying the delivery of essential supplies and help. Besides the immediate human toll, there are growing concerns about the broader impact on the supply chain, especially affecting nearby towns like Porgera.

Challenges in Disaster Response Highlighted

Papua New Guinea's challenging geography and underdeveloped infrastructure exacerbate the difficulties in disaster management. The country's rugged terrain and limited road access complicate the transportation of aid and personnel to affected areas like Kaokalam.

Recovery efforts are now focused on rescuing any possible survivors, although hope dwindles as time progresses. The teams are also tasked with recovering bodies to provide some closure to the families of the victims.

Ninga Role, another local witness, commented on the recovery challenges, saying, "There are some huge stones and plants, trees. The buildings collapsed. These things are making it hard to find the bodies."

Prime Minister James Marape's statement reflected his condolences and a commitment to action. He stated:

I am yet to be fully briefed on the situation. However, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the landslide disaster in the early hours of this morning. We are sending in disaster officials, PNG Defense Force, and the Department of Works and Highways to ... start relief work, recovery of bodies, and reconstruction of infrastructure.

Helicopters Provide Critical Access to Isolated Village

Journalist Belinda Kora reported on the logistical hurdles, noting that helicopters have become essential for reaching the affected area. The village's isolation in the mountainous region known as the Highlands poses significant challenges for relief efforts.

In conclusion, Kaokalam village of Enga province suffered immense losses from a landslide in the early hours while residents were asleep. The ongoing efforts are focused on recovery and rebuilding amidst challenges posed by the region's remote location and inadequate infrastructure. This event underlines the critical need for effective emergency preparedness and response mechanisms in Papua New Guinea.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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