Hopes Fade For Survivors As Papua New Guinea Landslide Death Toll Surpasses 670

The death toll from a catastrophic landslide in Papua New Guinea has increased to more than 670, according to a grim update from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with hopes of finding survivors beneath the rubble having all but vanished.

Serhan Aktoprak, head of the IOM’s mission in the island nation, revealed that the staggering figure was calculated based on estimates from Yambali village and Enga provincial officials. They believe more than 150 homes were buried when the mountainside collapsed on Friday, a significant increase from the initial assessment of 60 homes.

The recovery effort has been hampered by the sheer depth of the debris, with earth and rubble reaching 6 to 8 meters (20 to 26 feet) in some areas. Only a handful of bodies have been retrieved so far, and the arrival of an excavator on Sunday marked the first time heavy machinery joined the search.

Complicating matters further, the landslide has triggered the condemnation of an additional 250 houses due to unstable ground. An estimated 1,250 people are now homeless, compounding the already dire situation.

As the national government weighs the need for international assistance, survivors are being moved to safer ground. But the rescue operation faces the added threat of tribal warfare, a persistent issue in the Papua New Guinea Highlands. Clashes between rival clans have erupted in a nearby village, underscoring the complexity of the crisis.