25 Jan 2012

Dozens feared dead in PNG landslide

9:46 pm on 25 January 2012

The Papua New Guinea national disaster centre is sending an assessment team to the Southern Highlands to the site of a landslide which is thought to have killed dozens of people.

They will join a provincial disaster team that is already at the scene.

The landslide struck near Nogoli on Tuesday morning while many people were still sleeping, engulfing homes and a guest house in mud, rocks and boulders.

Acting director of the disaster office Martin Mose says it is still difficult to estimate how many people might have been buried, but says it could be as many as 60.

The site of the landslide is near a liquefied natural gas project and Mr Mose says it occurred near a quarry where the operator, Esso Highlands Ltd, had carried out some work.

He says that work could have weakened the earth and contributed to the landslide.

However, a spokeswoman for the company says it has not used the quarry in more than six months.

She says all of its employees have been accounted for.

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill visited the site and promised an independent investigation into the cause of the landslide.