PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (AP) — A landslide struck villages in mountainous central Papua New Guinea with local media reporting Wednesday 40 bodies recovered and 20 people missing.
The South Pacific island nation's National Disaster Center director Martin Mosi said several villages are close to where the landslide occurred near the town of Mendi early Tuesday and that fatalities are likely but unconfirmed.
Three National Disaster Center officials were headed to Mendi on Wednesday, where they will be flown by helicopter to join police at the disaster site.
"Most likely lives have been lost. We cannot tell how many," Mosi said.
Local lawmaker Francis Potape told Radio Australia's indigenous language service that the landslide completely covered two villages while people slept.
"There are people buried underneath and a number of them are, from what I have heard, children," The National newspaper reported Potape as saying.
The Post Courier newspaper reported that Prime Minister Peter O'Neill would fly to the state later Wednesday.
Local media reports that the destruction extended more than one mile (2 kilometers), leaving roads to villages cut off.