Rocks and Hard Places

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A devastating landslide buried more than 2,000 people in a remote Papua New Guinea village and work camp this week, authorities told the United Nations Monday, a disaster that has been exacerbated by the difficulty in delivering aid and fears of tribal violence, the Associated Press reported.

The disaster occurred in Enga Province in the early hours of Friday morning when residents were asleep. The landslide caused major destruction to buildings and essential food plots, with the UN estimating that more than 250 houses were abandoned and roughly 1,250 people were displaced.

Enga Province, near the Porgera gold mine operated by Canadian and Chinese companies, is densely populated and situated in difficult jungle terrain.

Officials visited the site Sunday where they initially projected the death toll at a few dozen people, before revising it steeply upward. They expect it to grow over the coming days.

Rescue operations have also been hampered by blocked highways and unstable ground. An aid convoy delivered tarps and water Saturday, and local authorities secured provisions for 600 people.

However, heavy equipment has yet to reach the site, leaving residents to search for bodies with small tools.

Complicating rescue efforts are tribal tensions, with local representatives warning that the region has experienced tribal clashes in recent months. Amid fears of post-disaster violence, two clans fought against each other Saturday, an incident that resulted in fatalities and saw dozens of houses burned down.

Papua New Guinea, characterized by its tropical climate and diverse tribal, ethnic, and linguistic groups, is rich in natural resources but remains largely underdeveloped, making it particularly susceptible to natural disasters.

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