Three dead after 7.6 magnitude earthquake hits remote part of Papua New Guinea

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — At least three people have died after a powerful earthquake struck a remote area of ​​Papua New Guinea early Sunday, authorities said. Others were injured and infrastructure damaged by the 7.6-magnitude temblor that was felt across the Pacific nation.

The three people died in a landslide in the gold-mining town of Wau, Morobe provincial disaster manager Charley Masange said. Other people were injured by falling structures or debris, and some health centers, houses, rural roads and highways were damaged, Masange told The Associated Press.

Masange said it may take some time to assess the full extent of injuries and damage in the area. But he said the sparse and scattered population and the lack of large buildings near the epicenter in the country’s largely undeveloped highlands may have helped prevent a bigger disaster since the quake was so strong.

A resident from the town closest to the epicenter described his ordeal to the AP.

Renagi Ravu was meeting with two colleagues at his home in Kainandu when the earthquake struck.

Ravu tried to get up from his chair but couldn’t keep his balance and ended up in a sort of group hug with his colleagues, while plates and cups fell from his shelves to the ground, he said. His children, ages 9 and 2, had spilled their drinks and breakfast.

Ravu, who is a geologist, said he tried to calm everyone down as the shaking continued for more than a minute.

Ravu said about 10,000 people live in and around his town, which is 66 kilometers (41 miles) from the epicenter.

He said people felt shaken.

“It’s common for earthquakes to be felt here, but usually it doesn’t last as long and it’s not as violent as this one,” Ravu said. “It was pretty intense.”

Ravu was repairing the damage to his home, which he said likely included a broken sewer pipe, judging by the smell. He said friends elsewhere in Kainantu had texted him with descriptions of cracked roads, broken pipes and falling debris, but no major building collapses or injuries.

“They are starting to clean their houses and streets,” he said. Communication appears to have been affected, he added, with some cell phone towers possibly down.

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake in 2018 in the central region of the country killed at least 125 people. This earthquake struck areas that are remote and underdeveloped, and estimates of the extent of damage and injuries have been slow to filter in.

Felix Taranu, a seismologist at the Geophysical Observatory in the capital Port Moresby, said it was too early to know the full impact of Sunday’s quake, although its strength meant it “probably caused significant damage”.

According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake occurred at 9:46 am. local time at a depth of 90 kilometers (56 miles). NOAA advised that there is no tsunami threat for the area.

Papua New Guinea is located in the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, east of Indonesia and north of eastern Australia. It is located on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, the arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where much of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic activity occurs.

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