Fifteen people are dead in Papua New Guinea in an accident described as an election campaign gone wrong.
Several others have been admitted in a serious condition to the Mt Hagen Hospital.
According to PNG Police, the people were from Tambul-Nebilyer District returning from an election rally. Rallies in PNG involve the distribution of alcohol to people participating, and drunk rallies have led to injuries and even death in the past.
A general election has been declared in PNG with polling to start on July 2. PNG police are expecting an increase in similar accidents.
Western Highland Provincial Police Commander Superintendent John Sagom said the overloaded truck overturned at Tomba, outside Mt Hagen town in the Western Highland Province on Sunday night.
“At approximately 9 pm, an FSR truck loaded with people returned from a campaign rally hosted by an intending candidate from Tambul-Nebilyer,” said Mr Sagom.
“From the initial report, the driver was allegedly under the influence of alcohol and speeding resulting in the vehicle overturning at a road corner causing 15 deaths and injuring several others.
“The mass casualties were evacuated to the Mt Hagen General Hospital by the locals and PNG Defence Force officers engaged in election security operations in the highlands region.
“Due to the mass casualties, the PNG Defence Force officers assisted the medical staff in treating the casualties and moving the dead into the morgue this morning.”
Mr Sagom issued a stern warning to candidates and supporters, saying safety should be paramount when transporting people. He said police will be out in full force to deal with reckless behaviour during this election period.
In the elections in 2017, more than 200 people lost their lives due to violence, and a handful of accidents.
It has been pointed out that the PNG Police and the Defence Force were not adequate in numbers to deal with violent conflicts or mass casualties arising from accidents.
Australia has sent its Defence Force who will be helping in polling but will not be present on the ground to deal with conflicts.
There is also a high prevalence of firearms during elections, and PNG’s security forces are not properly equipped to deal with situations involving firearms either.
An election observation report compiled by the Australian National University Department of Pacific Affairs found firearms were more prevalent in 2017 than in the previous two national elections.