More than 2,000 feared dead in Papua New Guinea landslide

The Papua New Guinea government reported that over 2,000 people are believed to have been buried alive in a devastating landslide. 

The disaster occurred in the early hours of Friday morning when the village of Yambali was asleep, as the side of a mountain collapsed in the South Pacific island nation.

Challenges in search and rescue efforts

Yambali is located in a remote and restive area in the interior of Papua New Guinea, a poor, rural nation off the northern coast of Australia. The challenging terrain and isolated location have made search and rescue efforts both complicated and hazardous.

The government's death toll estimate of over 2,000 is roughly triple the U.N.'s estimate of 670 killed. So far, the remains of only six people have been recovered.

 In a letter to the United Nations resident coordinator, seen by The Associated Press, the acting director of Papua New Guinea's National Disaster Center, Luseta Laso Mana, confirmed the landslide "buried more than 2,000 people alive" and caused "major destruction" at Yambali village in the Enga province.

Uncertainty surrounding casualty figures

Estimates of the casualties have varied widely since the disaster occurred. It remains unclear how officials arrived at the current number of people affected, highlighting the ongoing uncertainty and the difficulties in assessing the full impact of this tragic event.


People gather at the site of a landslide in Maip Mulitaka in Papua New Guinea's Enga Province on May 24, 2024. 

The government of Papua New Guinea formally requested additional international help on Monday.

The United States and Australia, a nearby neighbor and the most generous provider of foreign aid to Papua New Guinea, are among the governments that have publicly stated their readiness to increase support.

Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, with the western half belonging to Indonesia. The country is situated in the Pacific Ocean's "Ring of Fire," a region known for its active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes.

While the official population of Papua New Guinea is around 10 million, the U.N. has noted that there hasn't been a comprehensive census for years, and the actual figure could be closer to 17 million.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.