UN migration agency estimates more than 670 killed in Papua New Guinea landslide

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MELBOURNE, Australia, May 26, (AP): The International Organization for Migration on Sunday increased its estimate of the death toll from a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea to more than 670 as emergency responders and traumatized relatives gave up hope that any survivors will now be found.
Serhan Aktoprak, the chief of the UN migration agency’s mission in the South Pacific island nation, said the revised death toll was based on calculations by Yambali village and Enga provincial officials that more than 150 homes had been buried by Friday’s landslide. The previous estimate had been 60 homes.
“They are estimating that more than 670 people (are) under the soil at the moment,” Aktoprak told The Associated Press.
Local officials had initially put the death toll on Friday at 100 or more. Only five bodies and a leg of a sixth victim had been recovered by Sunday.
Relief crews were moving survivors to safer ground on Sunday as tons of unstable earth and tribal warfare, which is rife in the Papua New Guinea Highlands, threatened the rescue effort.
The national government meanwhile is considering whether it needs to officially request more international support.
Crews have given up hope of finding survivors under earth and rubble 6 to 8 meters (20 to 26 feet) deep.
“People are coming to terms with this so there is a serious level of grieving and mourning,” Aktoprak said.
He said the new estimated death toll was “not solid” because it was based on the average size of the region’s families per household. He would not speculate on the possibility that the actual toll could be higher.
“It is difficult to say. We want to be quite realistic,” Aktoprak said. “We do not want to come up with any figures that would inflate the reality.”

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