More than 100 feared dead after massive landslide

PORT MORESBY, PAPUA NEW GUINEA – A catastrophic landslide struck the remote village of Kaokalam in northern Papua New Guinea early Friday, leaving hundreds feared dead and burying over 50 homes. The disaster has prompted immediate response efforts from the government and various agencies.

Prime Minister James Marape announced coordinated relief operations involving the PNG Defence Force and the Department of Works and Highways. The landslide, which occurred near the Porgera gold mine operated by Barrick Gold, has yet to have its full impact on mining operations assessed.

Eyewitness accounts describe the harrowing scene in Kaokalam village, where the landslide hit around 3 a.m. local time. Villager Ninga Role reported that nearly 300 people, including his brother and cousin, are presumed dead. Role recounted the tragic story of a man who, in a desperate attempt to save his two children, was buried along with his extended family.

Social media footage shared by Role shows villagers scrambling over debris, uprooted trees, and rocks in a desperate search for survivors. The sounds of weeping women underscore the gravity of the tragedy. “It’s very difficult to get them out,” Role said, describing the overwhelming challenge of rescue efforts.

The village, located in Enga province approximately 370 miles north of the capital Port Moresby, has been severely impacted. Prime Minister Marape emphasized the importance of swift action and promised further updates as more information becomes available.

While the landslide has disrupted a section of the highway near the Porgera gold mine, Barrick Gold has stated that it is too early to determine the full extent of the damage. The mine currently has sufficient fuel and other critical supplies to continue operations for the next 40 days.

The disaster underscores the vulnerability of remote communities in Papua New Guinea to natural calamities and highlights the urgent need for effective disaster preparedness and response strategies.