ACN appeals for prayers following devastating landslide in Papua New Guinea

The landslides are being blamed on particularly intense rainfall and the death toll could be in the thousands.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has received urgent and distressing reports from its local partners in Wabag Diocese, Papua New Guinea, concerning the landslide that occurred in the early hours of Friday, 24 May 2024. This tragic event has had a devastating impact on some communities of the diocese.

Local residents attempt to remove the debris caused by a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea
Local residents attempt to remove the debris caused by a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea

According to information received by ACN in a message from local partners, approximately 3,950 people resided in the affected area, which is around two and a half hours from the diocesan headquarters. “The landslide, which struck at 3:00 AM local time, has flattened the village of Kaokalam, burying 178 people and destroying more than 255 houses”, the message said, adding that representatives of the diocese went to visit the affected area as soon as they could and were able to reach the spot to deliver basic emergency aid.

The number of confirmed fatalities is still rising as the recovery efforts continue. Many families have lost members, while some have managed to escape.

Koakalam is only one of the communities affected in Wabag Diocese. Other communities in other dioceses across hundreds of kilometres also suffered the effects and the total death toll in the country could reach thousands.

Marco Mencaglia, ACN’s director of projects, made an urgent appeal for prayers for the victims and all those affected by this disaster. “Our prayers and support are invaluable in helping our brothers and sisters in Papua New Guinea in this difficult time.”

Villagers from Kaokalam receive aid provided by the local diocese of Wabag, in Papua New Guinea
Villagers from Kaokalam receive aid provided by the local diocese of Wabag, in Papua New Guinea

Despite these challenges, Wabag Diocese has responded swiftly, providing food and medical supplies to those directly affected. Minor injuries are being treated locally, while more severe cases have been transported to health centres and to the Wabag Hospital.

The landslide has created debris up to 8 meters deep across a 200 square kilometre area, “which was making relief efforts difficult by cutting off road access but people of good will helped us to reach the spot with our supplies, food and medicines”, the message explains.

Initial estimates put the death toll in Koakalam at around 100, but this has now increased to 178 and may continue to rise as more bodies are recovered. “We suspect that it’s not only a massive landslide but also an earthquake because of the big creaks from the rocky mountain to the nearby river”, members of the diocesan curia explained.

Bishop Arnold Orowae and other members of the diocese, expressed their deepest gratitude to ACN for the messages of condolence and solidarity received. “Thank you very much for the condolence messages, for stand with us in solidarity, and for the heartfelt concern for us in your prayers and blessings”, they said.

 

By Maria Lozano.

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