4 killed, fears death toll may rise in massive PNG weekend quake

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Damage from the weekend earthquake at Birimon primary school in Deyamos LLG district in PNG's Morobe province
Damage from the weekend earthquake at Birimon primary school in Deyamos LLG district in PNG's Morobe province. Image: Mungai Donald/FB

PNG Post-Courier

A massive earthquake has sent shockwave across PNG with at least four dead, properties and key infrastructure destroyed and fears of a mounting death toll.

The 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck at 9:45am yesterday and rocked the newly-built five-star dormitories at the University of Goroka, leaving about 7600 students homeless and forcing PNG Power to shut down the country’s biggest dam at Yonki.

The plant generates and supplies power to Morobe, Madang and the Highlands region. Parts of Highlands Highway in the Markham Valley were cracked open.

At the UoG, the students rushed down the stairways and scurried out of the dormitories as a debris of brick blocks, metals and glasses crashed around them. The ceilings and walls cracked open and a section of one of the buildings’ roofs collapsed.

“The earthquake of whatever size it was has hit all our new dormitories to the very core of their foundations,” said a university academic, Dr Maninga.

“We invite the structural engineering professionals to assess the damage before we make any serious decision.

“We will also enquire with the national geohazard centre if we are to expect another earthquake and of what magnitude.

“Also, we look forward to meeting with a team from the DHERST (Department of Higher Education Research Science and Technology) with Minister Don Polye.

Tackling the emergency
“This unfortunate natural disaster has placed us in an emergency situation and we look forward to meeting with them to address this emergency. In the meantime, the students are advised to find shelters where they can.

PNG's massive weekend quake ... pushed to the margins of the Post-Courier front page by the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
PNG’s massive weekend quake … pushed to the margins of the Post-Courier front page by the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Image: PNG Post-Courier screenshot APR

“Those students from outside the province can use the classrooms for studies and lodging as well.

“The mess will be opened and continue to serve the students.”

The UoG students council representative, Melvin Kink, said the students understood the situation they were in now and would cooperate with the administration to live through it until further advice.

He also told the PNG Post-Courier that their library building was also affected.

PNG Power advised of a total power system outage in Morobe, Madang and the Highlands region following the earthquake.

The power supplier confirmed reports of damages at the Ramu Hydro power station and switch yard and advised that their team would carry out a proper check before they could safely restore power supply to their customers.

First medivac from landslide
The Post-Courier
received a report of Manolos Aviation making its first medivac of a couple injured in a landslide as a direct result of the earthquake out of Kabwun district in Morobe Province.

In the Rai Coast, Madang Province, reports were going viral on social media of people and properties buried in landslides.

In Yelia Local Level Government constituency of Obura-Wanenara district in Eastern Highlands Province, Kevin Kojompa, a teacher at the Yelia Primary School, said staff houses were destroyed.

The National Disaster Centre acting director Martin Mose said he had not yet received a full report on the nationwide effects of the earthquake.

Yesterday was a weekend day and the Post-Courier was unable to reach the National Disaster Centre or its provincial branches bout the effects of the earthquake.

Meanwhile, aircraft were using Goroka Airport after the earthquake, which signals that it was not affected.

Republished with permission.

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