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Search for hundreds feared dead in huge PNG landslide

Staff WritersReuters
Rescuers are searching for survivors after a landslide hit a village in northern Papua New Guinea. (AP PHOTO)
Camera IconRescuers are searching for survivors after a landslide hit a village in northern Papua New Guinea. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

More than 300 people and over 1100 houses were buried by a massive landslide that levelled a remote village in northern Papua New Guinea, local media report.

Hundreds are feared dead in the landslide that hit Kaokalam village in Enga Province, about 600km northwest of capital Port Moresby around 3am on Friday.

The landslide in the Pacific nation north of Australia buried more than 300 people and 1182 houses, the Papua New Guinea Post Courier said on Saturday, citing comments from a member of the country's parliament, Aimos Akem.

Akem did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment via social media.

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Australian broadcaster ABC reported on Saturday that four bodies had been retrieved from the area after emergency teams reached the sparsely populated area, where the death toll is expected to rise.

The landslide has blocked highway access, making helicopters the only way to reach the area, ABC reported.

Social media footage posted by villager Ninga Role showed people clambering over rocks, uprooted trees and mounds of dirt searching for survivors. Women could be heard weeping in the background.

Prime Minister James Marape has said disaster officials, the Defence Force and the Department of Works and Highways were assisting with relief and recovery efforts.

Australia's High Commission in Port Moresby is in close contact with PNG authorities about the extent of the damage and casualties.

"Our High Commissioner to PNG spoke with Prime Minister Marape and Governor for Enga Province Ipatas and has offered Australian assistance and condolences, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Saturday.

The government is still making inquiries with local authorities to confirm that no Australians have been affected.

"Australia stands ready to support any rescue and relief efforts at the PNG government's request," the department said.

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