28 STILL MISSING IN MOROBE PROVINCE LANDSLIDE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 4, 2002 – Post-Courier)---Twenty-eight people are still missing, now believed dead, in a landslide that devastated an entire village in Wantoat area, Morobe Province early this week.

Among the missing was the entire family of village councilor Mataeo Kubab, who was in Lae on business when the disaster struck at midnight on Monday.

Mr. Kubab returned to the village yesterday to find his seven-member family missing. He broke down when a relative met him when he got off a helicopter and informed him of the terrible news.

Provincial Government officials and the Provincial Disaster office who visited the area yesterday confirmed eight bodies —two children aged about two and three and their mother and five men — have been retrieved from the mud and debris.

Villagers buried the dead yesterday and were out helping disaster officials to search for possible survivors. By the end of the day, they had to abandon their search, with a head count of the three hamlets hit, revealing that some 28 people were still missing.

"Mipela i silip long dispela taim, na tenkim papa God, olsem samting ya in no kam olgeta long haus bilong mipela (We were all asleep at the time the disaster struck, and just thank God that the landslide did not reach our house)," a villager said.

Thirty-four of his fellow villagers were not so lucky, with 28 of them believed buried in the tons of mud. The landslide covers about one square kilometer.

The side of a mountain slipped, possibly due to heavy rain in the area, and crashed into a river below, throwing tons of mud into the air, which then fell on the villages of Bangusae and Napna.

The Post-Courier accompanied Morobe Governor Luther Wenge and Disaster Office people on a site inspection yesterday. Mr. Wenge wept when he saw a scene of total destruction.

He told villagers the provincial government would assist with emergency supplies, and that he would request other organizations in the province and the National Disaster and Emergency Services to also assist.

He met relatives of the victims and talked to the injured being treated at the local health center, offering prayers with them before returning to Lae.

The Provincial Government is considering declaring the area and emergency zone. Over 50 villagers have been evacuated to higher ground.

Meanwhile, there has not been any further report on three people missing following a fishing trip last week. The three left their Kasanga village in Finschhafen on a fishing trip Monday, March 24th, aboard a 19-footer dinghy powered by an old 40 hp motor and have not returned.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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