Deaths, buried villages reported as 7.6 magnitude earthquake hits PNG

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An earthquake collapsed hillside at Birimon primary school in Deyamos LLG district in PNG's Morobe province
An earthquake collapsed hillside at Birimon primary school in Deyamos LLG district in PNG's Morobe province. Image: Mungai Donald/FB

By Melisha Yafoi in Port Moresby

A 7.6 magnitude earthquake has been felt across Papua New Guinea with widespread damage to villages and an unconfirmed number of casualties reported in the Rai Coast district, Madang Province, and Wau, Morobe Province.

News agencies reported at least five dead.

The quake at a depth of 81km struck at 9.46am yesterday and was the result of the interaction between the South Bismarck and India Australia tectonic plates.

Department of Mineral Policy and Geohazard Management acting assistant director Matthew Mohoi told the PNG Post-Courier that since the earthquake occurred about 65 km west northwest of Lae and the depth was deeper on land, there was no potential for a tsunami.

However, Mohoi said the earthquake was felt very strongly in the Markham Valley region, Lae, and Kainantu in Eastern Highlands Province and was also felt moderately in Port Moresby and the other parts of the country.

He said the earthquake may have caused some damage within the epicentral area of which their office was yet to receive formal reports.

PNG Power Limited chief executive officer Obed Batia confirmed with the newspaper that the Ramu system has been shut down following the earthquake damages to the switchyard.

Ramu power station shut
Batia said the power station had experienced some switch gears damage at North Yonki and it had been shut down for assessment.

“If we see some heavy damage, that might take a while for us to quickly repair and restore and so that’s the situation now,” he said.

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

“Lae and Madang have diesel gensets so they can be partially supplied, Mt Hagen and Wabag will also be partially supplied, including Kunidawa and Goroka, to service hospitals.”

Batia said he would be informed of the assessment later today before the Ramu Station is back into operations.

Member of Parliament for Rai Coast Kessy Sawang also said that the earthquake had caused big damage to villages in the Finisterre Ranges, where they experienced landslides, and people being buried with houses. Casualties were unconfirmed with one confirmed death.

The local member said she has been in touch with New Tribes Mission and Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) who have assisted villages at Nankina.

She said MAF had airlifted several people to Goroka Hospital with four in a critical condition

The Post-Courier was seeking an update from the National Disaster Office.

Melisha Yafoi is a PNG Post-Courier reporter. Republished with permission.

Shattered bottles in a Port Moresby store
Shattered bottles in a Port Moresby store hundreds of kilometres from the earthquake epicentre. Image: PNG Post-Courier
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