By Harlyne Joku in Port Moresby
A huge landslide has buried a long hut with 13 people asleep inside at the foot of the Tolukuma gold mine in Papua New Guinea’s Central province.
The community from Saki village, Tolukuma, experienced the massive landslide yesterday morning between 4.30 am and 6 am amid heavy rain.
They were surprised to see that the long house built for visitors from nearby villages who come and reside there while panning for gold had disappeared.
“We have sent a message to the Central Provincial Disaster Office to assist with a chain saw and excavator to dig and cut through the trees, logs and dirt to uncover the house and search for the people buried by the landslide,” Saki village spokesman Cyril Samana told the PNG Bulletin by phone.
“We cannot do it ourselves with our bush knives because the slide has buried many of trees and logs too.
“The disaster occurred at about 4.30 am while the people were asleep. The landslide caught them by surprise coming down from the nearby Tolukuma mountain,” Simana said.
He said the people buried were from nearby villages panning for gold during the Christmas weekend.
‘Huge landslide debris’
“We woke up to see the huge landslide debris and the long house disappear. We have informed the disaster authorities and waiting for them to arrive possible tomorrow [Tuesday],” Simana said.
Simana said that since the Tolukuma mine was in operation in the early 1990s and 2000s, the ground on Tolokuma mountain had become soft.
He said the recent heavy rain in the afternoon till early morning may be the cause of the massive landslide burying the 13.
“Hopefully when the Disaster Office arrives, we will start clearing and digging,” Simana said.
“We have not been able to get through to the MP for Goilala or the Governor for Central. But we managed to reach the provincial disaster office,” Simana said.
Harlyne Joku is a Papua New Guinean environmental journalist. This article is republished with permission.