“Twenty-four people are confirmed dead, killed in three days, but could be more today,” Hela provincial administrator William Bando told AFP on Wednesday. “We are still waiting for today’s brief from our officials on the ground.”
Bando has called for at least 100 police to be deployed to reinforce some 40 local officers.
The incident has shocked both the country and recently appointed Prime Minister James Marape, whose constituency includes the district where the killings occurred.
It is not clear what prompted the attack, but many fights are fuelled by old rivalries prompted by rape or theft, or disputes over tribal boundaries.
In nearby Enga province, a similar surge in violence prompted the establishment of a makeshift military garrison and the deployment of a company of around 100 government soldiers under the command of a Sandhurst-trained major.