Up to 3,000 people are reported missing after a massive landslide hit several remote villages People gather at the site of a landslide in Maip Mulitaka in Papua New Guinea’s Enga Province on May 24, 2024. © AFP

Hundreds are feared dead after a major landslide hit northern Papua New Guinea early on Friday, destroying at least seven villages in a remote mountainous area.

Footage from the scene shows one village completely destroyed, with only a mix of rocks, mud and fallen trees remaining. Dozens of homes were lost and numerous roads in the area were damaged, according to local media reports.

“The huge landslide claimed lives and destroyed homes,” Peter Ipatas, the governor of Enga, the province where the landslide took place, told AFP, confirming that “over six” villages had been hit. “A natural disaster like this has never happened before.” The area where the events unfolded is roughly 600km north of the capital of Port Moresby.

It remains unclear how many people were killed in the disaster, yet the tally is feared to be in the hundreds, given that the mudslide occurred when most villagers were asleep in their homes. Australian Broadcasting Corp reported over 100 killed, whereas local media outlets suggested the tally could actually reach as high as nearly 3,000.

The country’s authorities have so far refrained from providing any estimates of the death toll, with Prime Minister James Marape admitting he had still not received a “comprehensive briefing” on the events.

“We are sending in disaster officials, PNG Defence Force, and the Department of Works and Highways to meet provincial and district officials in Enga and also start relief work, recovery of bodies, and reconstruction of infrastructure,” Marape said in a statement.

“I will release further information as I am fully briefed on the scale of destruction and loss of lives,” he added. (RT)