SIX BURIED IN MOROBE, PAPUA NEW GUINEA LANDSLIDE

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By Yehiura Hriehwazi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 11) - Six people lie buried under a massive landslip that pulled away the side of a mountain with village gardens at Worin Village in the remote Kabwum area of Papua New Guinea’s Morobe province.

Yesterday’s reported deaths of eight in The National were incorrect as information was sketchy, when it reached Lae.

The landslip victims included two adults and four young boys, who were on their way to Sapmanga from their Worin Village.

They were identified as Leo Yamben (adult); Hey Yaran (adult); Earnest Dangiong, a 15-year-old Grade 5 student; Mana Boing (15), a Grade 5 student; Sorondi Andrew (14), a Grade 4 student; and Pinus Tamaiya an elementary student.

The landslide occurred between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Monday as the six were walking across their commonly used track to Sapmanga Station, a three-hour walk to the northwest.

Sapmanga hosts the area’s only airstrip, medical clinic and trade store.

Two women, who had gone ahead of the victims, escaped the landslip unhurt.

Worin villagers emerged from their houses, which were located on ridges on the other slope which runs parallel down the mountain side, and watched the avalanche carried trees and food gardens down hill with fear.

As they (the villagers) watched and cried, they heard the six running back towards the village but could not make it to safety and were quickly buried under the moving earth.

There is no way the bodies can be retrieved.

Thus, the site becomes a cemetery.

Ese Dangiong, whose son Earnest was buried in the massive avalanche, said he tried to go and save them but it was too late.

Shocked and grieved, he said in Tok Pisin: "Mi laik go helpim, tasol ino inap."

A total of 57 villagers’ lost their food gardens.

However, Morobe Disaster Centre director Roy Kamen was yesterday coordinating food supplies to be flown into the area by helicopter after visiting the disaster area earlier in the morning.

At first sight, it looked as if a powerful bomb was dropped on the side of the Worin Mountain, The National regional manager Yehiura Hriehwazi, who accompanied Mr. Kamen, said, visualizing the extent of the disaster.

The entire side of the slope went down in the massive landslip measuring about 5 kolometers from top to bottom, where a river is slowly washing away the mud and debris. The area, where the six were buried, is about a kilometer wide.

"Just as well it didn’t block the river," Kamen said, because it could have a build-up, posing serious threat to villagers downstream.

The villagers were in shock when they visited the site yesterday, and admitted that this was the third of such landslip in the area.

They said they could not remember the dates of the previous two landslips but they also killed some people.

Because of the soil instability of the area, Kamen has asked the villagers to move to other more stable areas to live and make gardens.

He said he would seek provincial administration’s help to relocate the people.

The Kwabum district rural development officer Hubert Soma was picked up by helicopter yesterday morning and flown to Worin to compile a detailed report of the population of the area and the type of help needed.

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