Hundreds Feared Dead After Massive Landslide in Papua New Guinea

( – A devastating landslide struck the remote village of Kaokalam early Friday morning, leaving a trail of destruction and tragedy in its wake. Local officials reported to CNN on Saturday that three bodies have been recovered so far, but they fear the death toll could rise significantly.

The landslide occurred around 3 a.m. local time, about 600 kilometers (372 miles) northwest of Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby. The force of the landslide left a massive swath of debris, reportedly the size of four football fields, according to humanitarian workers on the scene.

Sandis Tsaka, the provincial administrator of Enga province, told CNN, “We are expecting the number to be significant.” Currently, more than 100 people are believed to have perished in the disaster. Janet Philemon, caretaker and national treasurer of the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society, had earlier informed CNN of the grave situation.

In total, around 3,900 people have been affected by the landslide, Tsaka stated on Saturday. The destruction is widespread, with over 60 homes completely wiped out, according to reports from CARE Australia. As of now, all residents of these households are unaccounted for.

Serhan Aktoprak, the head of mission for the International Organization for Migration in Papua New Guinea, described the heartbreaking scene. “Children are separated from their mothers and fathers. Relatives are trying to find their missing ones,” he shared with CNN. “Every minute that passes is basically decreasing our hopes and increasing our frustrations.”

Emergency responders have been sent to the disaster site, but their efforts are being hindered by significant damage to a main highway, which limits access to the affected areas. “The impact area is huge. About 150 meters of the road is gone, and the landslide area is very active with moving debris and rocks,” Tsaka explained. “This makes it difficult for our first responders to operate.”

The debris from the landslide is estimated to be between 6 to 8 meters (around 20 to 26 feet) deep. Clearing this obstruction will likely take considerable time, CARE Australia noted, adding, “While the area is not densely populated, our concern is that the death toll could be disproportionately high.”

Papua New Guinea, a Pacific nation with a population of around 10 million, is rich in natural resources. Despite this, the country’s economy lags behind its neighbors, and it struggles with one of the highest crime rates in the world. The country’s remote and rugged terrain, along with a lack of infrastructure, makes it challenging to provide basic services like water, electricity, and sanitation.

The people of Kaokalam and surrounding areas are now facing an immense tragedy. The landslide has not only taken lives but also disrupted the entire community, leaving families searching for loved ones and humanitarian groups racing against time to provide aid.