14 confirmed dead in PNG Highlands quake, aftershocks

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Two PNGDF helicopters had been deployed to the earthquake-hit Southern Highlands region to assist National Disaster officials carry out initial assessment, says Chief-of-Staff Colonel Ray Numa. Video: EMTV News

By Johnny Poiya in Mendi

Fourteen people have been killed in Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands and Hela Provinces by the powerful earthquake and aftershocks that hit early Monday morning.

This figure is down from an estimated more than 30 deaths reported by the Post-Courier yesterday.

Acting Hela police commander Thomas Levongo said nine people were reported killed in Hela while sources in Mendi claimed five killed.

All were killed reportedly when they were sleeping by their falling houses.

Landslips and sinkholes in many parts of the two provinces had created unprecedented catastrophies, ammounting to millions of kina in repair costs.

A damaged house in the Southern Highlands. Image: Sally Lloyd/Facebook

-Partners-

Several sections of the highway were blocked by landslips and sinkholes while structural damages included cracks on the road surfaces.

The earthquake which struck around quarter to four caused whole mountain sides to fall off, rumbling towards villages below, sending unsuspecting sleeping locals to wakeup and flee for their lives.

The quake caused massive destruction right across the two provinces with the most notable areas near the Highlands Highway in villages of Assisi in Imbongu, Nipa, Poroma, Tari and Komo-Margarima districts.

Heavy trembling from aftershocks continued sparodically in the two provinces throughout the day and night on Monday and yesterday.

A whole section of the Tubiri limestone near Mendi town, made famous by local artist Agustine Emil in his song “TLS”, broke off and rumbled down to the Mendi River.

The earthquake which is alleged to be the biggest in the region, caused communication and power blackouts in Hela and Southern Highlands on Monday and yesterday.

The massive earthquake toppled a very large number of houses, fences, walls, power pylons and trees.

Johnny Poiya is a PNG Post-Courier reporter.

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