Body recovery effort ‘called off’ at Papua New Guinea landslide site

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Hundreds of villagers feared buried in Papua New Guinea landslide will not be recovered, the military told AFP Wednesday, describing the disaster zone as “too dangerous” to operate in.

“All efforts to recover bodies have been called off because of the danger” of further landslides, Major Joe Aku said. “Recovery is non-negotiable at this stage.”

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Aku -- one of the leading military officers overseeing the site -- declared the highland area a “no-go zone” that will be cordoned off to the community and authorities until further notice.

“It is too dangerous to be on-site at this stage. This is the worst and biggest landslide I have seen,” he said.

Papua New Guinea is one of the world’s most disaster-prone regions and landslides are extremely common in its highlands.

Initial Papua New Guinea government estimates said as many as 2,000 people may have been buried in the May 24 slide, although Aku said this number could be closer to 650.

Only nine bodies have been recovered, according to local health authorities.

An internal report by Papua New Guinea’s mining and geohazards department, obtained by AFP on Tuesday, warned there was a “high likelihood of further landslides” at the site “in the immediate future”.

The report concluded that “any access to the area should be restricted to experts”.

Local authorities estimate 7,849 people live in two wards hit by the disaster.

Many of these people have been evacuated and are relying on the aid of agencies or partner countries to survive, Aku said.

He added discussions were underway with the community and local authorities about a possible memorial for those “buried under the rubble”.

Read more:

‘High likelihood’ of more landslides at Papua New Guinea disaster site

Papua New Guinea leader Marape says extraordinary weather causing disasters

UN agency says ‘very unlikely’ there are survivors from Papua New Guinea landslide

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