But locals in Tari say the blasting from nearby quarries caused the landslide.
Speaker:Francis Potape, PNG local member for Komo-Magarima
POTAPE: The latest is according to the local leaders who are directly affected by this unfortunate incident, the landslide. The total number of known people deaths stands at 25.
COUTTS: Now the causes, there's much speculation about it. Is there much research going into the causes and what do you know about them?
POTAPE: Yes, the government of Papua New Guinea has already indicated that an independent investigation team hopefully, especially with special people who know more about landslides and so forth from Australia will be commissioned or established by the government to carry out investigations into what has actually caused the landslide. But at the moment, people have their own views on what has caused the landslide, but we will wait for the investigation to happen and that investigation is most welcome by myself and all the members of parliament from Southern Highlands as well as the landowner leaders and landowners and the people themselves.
COUTTS: What are the experts telling you as to how long they think it will take them to discover what happened?
POTAPE: Well, the experts have not been actually, the investigation team has not been actually instituted but it will take a while and at the moment the people are more concerned about the safety of those who are moving around and also about retrieving the body and so forth, so I believe it will take awhile, yes.
COUTTS: How stable is the area around the landslide in Tari. There are fears there could be further landslides?
POTAPE: Yes, thank you, the area is not stable. The area is not stable. We are concerned about the surrounding villages as well because as we are speaking, heavy rain is continuously pouring down here in the mountains of the Tari and generally they are in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea and this has been ongoing and so the area is not stable. Even the landslided area, the debris are still unstable for civil works, or the recovery to also begin.
COUTTS: Well, that brings me to my next question Mr Potape. The weather and the unstable conditions must be hampering the rescue efforts. How are people functioning on the ground at the moment?
POTAPE: Well, what's happening is that as of yesterday, the real work or discussion towards the discovery of people has actually begun with the officials from the National Disaster and Emergency office together with those from the provincial office had a meeting with the provincial police commander in the Hela Province and also from Exxon-Mobile and also involved. They were discussing what the steps they will be taking to recover the bodies and then also to provide access. The plan now is to have this operation in four phases. Phase one is to secure the disaster impacted area, that is to ensure that surrounding villagers are moved out, people are moved out, and no people having access to the debris of the land slide area, because it's still moving. The second phase is for the recovery effort to begin. And the third phase is for civil works, for men and machine to move onto the land slide area and start digging around for bodies and also providing access from one part of the area to the otherside. And then the final phase is for the whole area and the people to be stabilised again.