Papua New Guinea | Risk of epidemic after deadly landslide

(Port Moresby) Survivors of the deadly landslide that decimated an entire village in Papua New Guinea face a “significant risk of epidemic” and have not yet received enough food and drinking water, alerted the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Thursday.

Six days after the tragedy which buried a town in the province of Enga, in the center of the country, the human toll remains uncertain. The government says some 2,000 people were buried, but satellite imagery, disaster experts and local officials suggest a much lower toll.

On Thursday, the IOM said water sources were contaminated and the risk of disease was growing.

“The streams that flow (in the middle) of the debris are contaminated and present a significant risk of epidemic,” declared the IOM, which notably issued a warning regarding malaria.

After the landslide, residents of the two affected neighborhoods, Yambeli and Lapak, dug in the earth to try to find the missing. Eyewitnesses reported that the smell emanating from the corpses had become unbearable.

Local authorities said between six and 11 bodies had been found.

IOM said it had made the delivery of drinking water, purification tablets and essential foodstuffs to the site a top priority.

“The lack of accurate information on affected areas and populations hampers effective planning and delivery of humanitarian assistance,” the organization warned.

Sandis Tsaka, administrator of Enga province, told AFP on Thursday that the death toll was likely in the “hundreds” rather than thousands.

According to him, the traumatized survivors were unable to provide reliable information about their loved ones still missing.

“Rescue workers are starting to gather information on the people present and the number of people affected,” said Mr. Tsaka, who hopes that the first figures will be confirmed by the end of Friday.

source site-59