Residents of northern cities near the epicenter reported a strong shaking in the middle of the morning, which led to cracked roads and clattering building cladding – Copyright WanNaiks Gallery/AFP Handout
A 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit Papua New Guinea on Sunday, damaging buildings, triggering landslides and killing at least five people and seriously injuring several others.
Residents in northern cities near the epicenter reported severe shaking in the middle of the morning, cracking roads and shaking building cladding.
Local MP Kessy Savang said at least two people have died in remote mountain villages and four others have been airlifted to hospital in critical condition.
“There was significant damage,” she told AFP, adding that the landslide covered houses and “split” one village where people “lost their homes.”
Koranga Alluvial Mining said three miners were buried alive in nearby Wau.
The area has limited communications, few government resources, and very few paved roads, making assessment and rescue difficult.
Small air companies and mission groups were involved in airlifting some of the wounded through the harsh jungle landscape.
“It is very difficult, the terrain, the weather. It’s difficult,” said Nelly Pumai of Manolos Aviation, who had taken one person out and was trying to get back.
In the eastern mountain town of Goroka, residents snapped pictures of window awnings falling from the cracked walls of the local university.
He was “very strong,” said Hivi Apore, a worker at the Jais Aben Resort near the coastal town of Madang.
“It was like sitting in the sea – just swimming.”
The quake was felt as far as the capital Port Moresby about 300 miles (480 kilometers).
The USGS initially issued a tsunami warning for nearby coastal areas, but subsequently said the threat had passed.
But the frightened locals by the sea still fled to higher ground, reporting that the water level had dropped sharply.
– “Massive” –
Leader of the Nation James Marape said the quake was “strong” and urged people to be careful, but said he expected damage to be less than from the 2018 quake and series of aftershocks that killed about 150 people.
However, the extent of damage and casualties from Sunday’s quake remain unclear.
“National and provincial emergency agencies, as well as leaders, have been asked to assess the damage and injuries to people and take action as soon as possible,” Marape said.
State-backed communications company DataCo said it experienced “multiple outages” of its domestic undersea communications cable as well as PIPE Pacific Cable 1, which runs from Sydney to Guam.
It is not yet clear if any damage has been done to regional airports.
The quake struck at a depth of 61 kilometers (38 miles), about 67 kilometers from the city of Kainantu, according to the US Geological Survey.
Papua New Guinea is located in the Pacific “ring of fire”, so earthquakes often occur here.
Earlier Sunday, the USGS also reported two strong earthquakes on the remote Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra in neighboring Indonesia.