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SYDNEY: Emergency teams pulled three bodies from the rubble of Papua New Guinea’s massive landslide, the UN said on Sunday, warning the death toll would likely rise in the disaster where hundreds are feared dead.

Media in the Pacific nation north of Australia have said Friday’s landslide buried more than 300 people and over 1,100 houses when it levelled Kaokalam village in Enga Province, about 600 km (370 miles) northwest of capital Port Moresby.

More than six villages have been impacted by the landslide in the province’s Mulitaka region, said Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The three bodies were retrieved from an area where 50 to 60 homes had been destroyed, while six people, including a child, were pulled from rubble alive, the UN’s Papua New Guinea office said in a statement.

It said many of those buried were yet to be located as search and rescue efforts continued in the mountainous area of the country, which shares the island of New Guinea with Indonesia.

Aid group CARE Australia said late on Saturday that nearly 4,000 people lived in the impact zone but the number affected was probably higher as the area is “a place of refuge for those displaced by conflicts” in nearby areas.

At least 26 men were killed in Enga Province in February in an ambush amid tribal violence that prompted Prime Minister James Marape to give arrest powers to the country’s military.

The landslide left debris up to 8 metres (25 feet) deep across 200 square km (80 square miles), cutting off road access and making relief efforts difficult, CARE said.

Papua New Guinea declares state of emergency after deadly riots

Helicopters were the only way to reach the area, the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported.

Aid groups have said more homes could be at risk if the landslide continues down the mountain, as the terrain remains unstable.

Marape has said disaster officials, the Defence Force and the Department of Works and Highways were assisting with relief and recovery efforts.

Social media footage posted by villager Ninga Role showed people clambering over rocks, uprooted trees and mounds of dirt searching for survivors.

Women could be heard weeping in the background.

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