More Than 100 People Believed Killed by Landslide in Papua New Guinea, Australian Media Report 

People walk with their belongings in the area where a landslide hit the village of Kaokalam, Enga province, Papua New Guinea, 24 May 2024. (EPA)
People walk with their belongings in the area where a landslide hit the village of Kaokalam, Enga province, Papua New Guinea, 24 May 2024. (EPA)
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More Than 100 People Believed Killed by Landslide in Papua New Guinea, Australian Media Report 

People walk with their belongings in the area where a landslide hit the village of Kaokalam, Enga province, Papua New Guinea, 24 May 2024. (EPA)
People walk with their belongings in the area where a landslide hit the village of Kaokalam, Enga province, Papua New Guinea, 24 May 2024. (EPA)

More than 100 people are believed to have been killed Friday in a landslide that buried a village in a remote part of Papua New Guinea, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The landslide reportedly hit Kaokalam village in Enga province, about 600 kilometers (370 miles) northwest of the South Pacific island nation's capital of Port Moresby, at roughly 3 a.m. local time (15:00 GMT), ABC reported.

Residents say current estimates of the death toll are above 100, although authorities have not confirmed this figure. Villagers said the number of people killed could be much higher.

Videos on social media show locals pulling out bodies buried under rocks and trees.

The Papua New Guinea government and police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Elizabeth Laruma, who runs a women's business association in Porgera, a town in the same province near the Porgera Gold Mine, said village houses were flattened when the side of a mountain gave way.

“It has occurred when people were still asleep in the early hours, and the entire village has gone down,” Laruma told ABC. “From what I can presume, it’s about 100-plus people who are buried beneath the ground.”

The landslide blocked the road between Porgera and the village, she said, raising concerns about the town's own supply of fuel and goods.

Village resident Ninga Role, who was away when the landslide struck, expects at least four of his relatives have died.

“There are some huge stones and plants, trees. The buildings collapsed,” Role said. “These things are making it hard to find the bodies fast.”

Belinda Kora, a Port Moresby-based ABC reporter, said authorities had yet to make any official comment more than 12 hours after the disaster.

Kora said helicopter was the only way of accessing the village which is in the mountainous interior region known as the Highlands with the main road closed.

Papua New Guinea is a diverse, developing nation of mostly subsistence farmers with 800 languages. There are few roads outside the larger cites.

With 10 million people, it is also the most populous South Pacific nation after Australia, which is home to some 27 million.

Telecommunications are poor, particularly outside Port Moresby where government data shows 56% of the nation's social media users reside. Only 1.66 million people across the country use the internet and 85% of the population live in rural areas.



Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
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Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

The six candidates vying to succeed ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash, focused on revitalizing Iran's sanctions-hit economy in their first debate ahead of next week's election.

The contenders -- five conservatives and a sole reformer -- faced off in a four-hour live debate, vowing to address the financial challenges affecting the country's 85 million people.

Originally slated for 2025, the election was moved forward after Raisi's death on May 19 in a helicopter crash in northern Iran.

Long before the June 28 election, Iran had been grappling with mounting economic pressures, including international sanctions and soaring inflation.

"We will strengthen the economy so that the government can pay salaries according to inflation and maintain their purchasing power," conservative presidential hopeful Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said.

Ghalibaf, Iran's parliament speaker, also pledged to work towards removing crippling US sanctions reimposed after then US president Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran's economy grew by 5.7 percent in the year to March 2024, with authorities targeting a further eight percent growth this year, driven by hydrocarbon exports.

The sole reformist candidate, Massoud Pezeshkian, said he would seek to build regional and global relations to achieve this growth.

He also called for easing internet restrictions in the country where Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and X are among the social media platforms banned.

Reformists, whose political influence has waned in the years since the 1979 revolution, have fallen in behind Pezeshkian after other moderate hopefuls were barred from standing.

Ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, however, said Iran did not need to repair its relations with the West.

He took aim at Trump, saying his policy of "maximum pressure" against Iran had "failed miserably".

- 'Maximum pressure' -

In the absence of opinion polls, Ghalibaf, Jalili and Pezeshkian are seen as the frontrunners for Iran's second highest-ranking job.

Ultimate authority in the state is wielded by the supreme leader rather the president with 85-year-old Ali Khamenei holding the post for 35 years.

Incumbent Vice President Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi said during the debate he would seek to lower inflation following a "political leadership style similar to that of Martyr Raisi."

Raisi easily won Iran's 2021 election in which no reformist or moderate figures were allowed to run. Backed by Khamenei he had been tipped to possibly replace the supreme leader.

Iran’s relations with the West continued to suffer, particularly following the outbreak of the October 7 Gaza war.

Tehran's support for the Palestinian armed group Hamas, coupled with ongoing diplomatic tensions over Iran's nuclear program have hastened the decline.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the only cleric in the running, blamed international sanctions for "blocking the economy" and "making financial transactions impossible".

Tehran's conservative mayor, Alireza Zakani, said the US sanctions were "cruel" but were not the main problem behind Iran's economic hardship.

"We should emphasize the economic independence of the country, de-dollarize the economy and rely on our own national currency," he said.