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Rescuers scramble to reach remote region of Papua New Guinea hit by deadly landslide

Rescue workers are scrambling to reach a remote village in northern Papua New Guinea after it was hit by a major landslide, the prime minister said Friday, adding that an unspecified number of people had been killed.

The disaster hit the village of Kaokalam in Enga province, about 600 kilometers (372 miles) northwest of the capital Port Moresby, Australian public broadcaster ABC said.

Authorities have yet to announce a death toll and the full extent of the damage is still being assessed, with bodies being recovered.

Prime Minister James Marape said in a statement that authorities are working to address the disaster.

“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, according to ABC and Reuters news agency.

“I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the landslide disaster.”

In comments carried by ABC, officials said houses were flattened when the side of a nearby mountain gave way.

Enga provincial governor Peter Ipatas told news agency AFP that the landslide caused “loss of life” and damaged property.

The remoteness of the affected village is hindering rescue efforts.

Footage of the aftermath carried by AFP showed a wide scar of mud and rocks on a steep mountainside slope and locals clambering to look for survivors.

A Pacific island nation home to around 10 million people, Papua New Guinea is rich in resources, but its economy has long trailed those of its neighbors and it has one of the highest crime rates in the world.

Violence remains widespread. Chaos erupted in the capital earlier this year after police walked off the job in protest about a drop in their pay, which government officials later blamed on a computer glitch in the payroll system. Shops were looted and buildings set on fire during the disturbance.

Hundreds of tribes are spread across the archipelago’s remote and often inaccessible terrain. But its vast and diverse mountainous landscape, as well as a lack of roads, has made it difficult and costly to upgrade basic services like water, electricity and sanitation.

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