AT LEAST 19 BURIED ALIVE IN PNG LANDSLIDE

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Morobe province hit by flooding and bad weather

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 26, 2009) – Nineteen people including women and children were buried alive in a massive landslide yesterday morning in the Masa area of Sialum District in Morobe province.

But the numbers of human casualties could increase today when people start to clear the mud and debris in the landslide area.

According to reports from the Morobe Provincial Administration, the area have been hard hit by continuous bad weather and floods over the last few days, which might have caused the massive landslide.

The Morobe Provincial Disaster and Emergency office also confirmed yesterday that they could not send officers into the area to assess the damages and causalities due to unavailability of a helicopter in Lae.

Morobe provincial administrator Kemas Tomala confirmed the report and said the landslide occurred between 2am and 3am yesterday morning at Zongefifi village between the terrains of Pindiu, Finschhafen, Kabwum and Sialum districts.

Mr. Tomala said reports were sketchy but it was believed that the whole village of Zongefifi was hit by the landslide which buried 19 people and destroyed food gardens and livestock.

He said disaster officers in Lae were unable to visit the disaster zone and assess the situation but a helicopter would be sent from Port Moresby by the National Disaster and Emergency Office today.

Deputy Administrator Patalias Gamato said the bad weather was another impediment to the launching of relief operations. "We will send in a disaster relief team tomorrow (today) but the weather has been bad with continuous raining and massive cloud cover in the area. We have directed our officers at Sialum station to the disaster zone area and to bring in a situation report," he said.

He said his men were working around the clock to bring relief supplies and assistance into the area by today despite the weather condition.

Government officers at Sialum said news of the landslide was brought into the station by some youth from a nearby village who walked for hours.

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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