Deadly landslide strikes in Papua New Guinea

A huge landslide has left hundreds dead and many more missing in Enga province, Papua New Guinea. Some are predicting that the death toll will be in the thousands. The affected area is remote, with rugged terrain and limited communications which is hampering rescue efforts. People have been using hand tools and their bare hands to dig through up to eight metres of rock and soil that has engulfed entire communities. Thousands of people have been evacuated to higher ground as the ground is still very unstable.

Rescue efforts are underway with helicopters expected to airlift in relief supplies given that the main highway is blocked. The Government of PNG has been offered assistance and funding support by both Australia and New Zealand. The situation on the ground is complicated by ongoing tribal fighting in the region, although this is not expected to pose a risk to aid workers.

New Caledonia unrest quietens but tensions persist

The state of emergency that was declared in and around Noumea at the height of recent violence has now been lifted. However, the situation remains very tense. The French authorities have announced that a further seven mobile policing units will be despatched to the territory to support local security agencies.

Meanwhile at the political level, there appears to be very little chance of a breakthrough. President Macron spent 18 hours on the ground in Noumea last week, seeking to establish a dialogue with all relevant stakeholders. Whilst he agreed to defer the passage of controversial electoral reform laws, he did not withdraw the legislation to enact them.

The situation in New Caledonia has highlighted the unfinished business of decolonisation that persists across the Pacific islands region. There have been many messages of support for the Kanaky fight for self-determination from across the region.

Other Pacific News

In Fiji, MPs have caused public outcry by awarding themselves a significant increase in salary. The National Federation Party MPs (members of the governing coalition) voted against the measure, highlighting a lack of cohesion at the top.

In Tonga, the Parliament is set to debate the re-introduction of the death penalty. This comes as the country grapples with a growing illicit drugs crisis, leading to increased levels of crime and associated social problems.

Across the Pacific islands region, climate activists have welcomed an Advisory Opinion that was handed down recently by the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), which held that countries must do more to protect oceans from climate change impacts.

The Minister of the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party has paid a visit to Vanuatu where he met with government leaders. In a public speech, he spoke of his country’s desire to progress relationships with countries in the region.

In Bougainville, thousands of people are involved in a class action against Rio Tinto and Bougainville Copper Ltd. The action is based on claims of social and environmental degradation as a result of the activities of Panguna mine.


Dr Tess Newton Cain is a Senior Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and project lead for the Griffith Pacific Hub.