More than 2,000 persons are presumed to have been buried by a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea on Friday, reported Reuters.

The country’s National Disaster Centre communicated the figure to the United Nations, which had earlier estimated more than 670 deaths in the country.

The agency’s letter warned of extensive damage and said that the landslide had “caused major impact on the economic lifeline of the country”, reported the BBC.

Papua New Guinea is located in Oceania, a continent made up of thousands of islands in the Pacific Ocean.

The difference in the toll estimated by the United Nations and the country’s authorities was due to the remoteness of the site in Enga province, and the lack of recent population estimates, Reuters reported. Papua New Guinea’s last credible census was in 2000 and a large number of its citizens live in isolated mountain villages.

The country’s Defence Minister Billy Joseph claimed that 4,000 persons had been living in six remote villages in the affected Maip-Mulitaka area. Most would have been asleep when the landslide occurred three days ago, he said, according to Reuters.

Attempts to locate and rescue survivors, and extricate trapped bodies, are being hampered due to rubble as deep as 32 feet in some places, reported BBC.

Prime Minister James Marape has directed defence and emergency agencies to the province, which lies around 600 kilometres north-west of the capital Port Moresby. However, a community organiser who had visited the site of the disaster said that locals had been left to dig out the dead and survivors themselves with shovels and their bare hands.

At least two people are reported to have been rescued.