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Papua New Guinea’s prime minister visits the site of a landslide estimated to have killed hundreds

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In this photo released by UNDP Papua New Guinea, villagers search through a landslide in Yambali village, in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, on May 27. (AP)

MELBOURNE, Australia, June 1, (AP): Papua New Guinea’s prime minister on Friday visited the site of a major landslide, which is estimated to have buried hundreds of villagers in the South Pacific island nation’s mountainous interior a week ago and left the ground too unstable for heavy earthmoving machines to help clear up the mess.
James Marape told hundreds who had gathered near the devastated Yambali village that the list of governments and world leaders who had sent their condolences included the United States, China, India, France, Malaysia and the Czech Republic. First on the list was UK King Charles III, Papua New Guinea’s constitutional head of state.
“My people are simple people. I want to say thank you for them to the global friends of PNG,” Marape said.
The first mechanized excavator arrived at the scene on Sunday, but it hasn’t been permitted to start removing the boulders, rocks and splintered trees that have buried a 150-to-200-meter (500-to-650-foot) stretch of the Enga province’s main highway.
The nation’s military had expected up to 10 excavators and bulldozers to be on the scene this week to help villagers who have used spades and farming tools to painstakingly retrieve bodies from the rubble, but have so far only found seven.
The United Nations estimates that 670 villagers died in the disaster, which immediately displaced 1,650 survivors. Papua New Guinea’s government has told the United Nations it thinks more than 2,000 people were buried.
Marape said that geotechnical reports in recent days found the area remains unstable.

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