UN official: Death toll in Papua New Guinea landslide estimated to surpass 670

(Photo credit: DPA) IANS

Sydney, May 26 (IANS) The death toll from a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea (PNG) was estimated to surpass 670, an official from the International Organisation for Migration told the media on Sunday.

According to Serhan Aktoprak, the chief of the UN migration agency's mission in the Pacific island country, the scale of the impact was much greater than initially thought.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Aktoprak said that more than 150 houses might be buried under the debris six to eight metres deep, and over 670 people could have lost their lives.

The area surrounding the disaster zone in Enga province also remained dangerous, with incessant rockfalls and continuous landslides prompting the evacuation of about 1,250 survivors, the official noted.

At around 3:00 a.m. local time on Friday, a massive landslide battered a remote region in Enga province, located over 600 km northwest of PNG's capital, Port Moresby.

The UN office in PNG issued a statement on Saturday, offering its deepest condolences to the victims and their families in the Lagaip Porgera District of Enga province.

"While the total number of casualties is yet to be determined, preliminary reporting indicates the death toll may be significant. Search and rescue efforts are underway, although continuous landslides and falling boulders are affecting these efforts," said a spokesperson.