7.6 magnitude earthquake hits part of Papua New Guinea, kills 3

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — At least three people were killed after a strong earthquake struck a remote part of Papua New Guinea on Sunday morning, authorities said. Others were injured and infrastructure damaged in the 7.6-magnitude quake, which was felt across the Pacific nation.

The three people died in a landslide in the gold-mining town of Wau, Morobe provincial disaster director Charlie Masange said. Other people were injured by falling structures or debris, and there was damage to some health centers, homes, rural roads and highways, Massange told The Associated Press.

Massange said it may take some time to assess the full extent of injuries and damage in the region. But he said the sparse and scattered population and the lack of large buildings near the epicenter in the country’s largely undeveloped mountains may have helped prevent a bigger disaster given that the quake was so powerful.

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

Renagi Ravu was meeting two colleagues at her home in Kainantu when the earthquake struck.

Ravu tried to get up from his chair but couldn’t keep his balance and ended up in what looked like a group hug with his colleagues as plates and glasses crashed from his shelves to the ground, he said. His children, ages 9 and 2, had their drinks and breakfast spilled.

Ravu, who is a geologist, said he tried to calm everyone down as the tremors lasted 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 feel shaken.

“It’s common for earthquakes to be felt here, but they don’t usually last as long or as strong as this,” Ravu said. “It was pretty intense.”

Ravu was sorting out the damage to his home, which he said probably included a burst sewer pipe, judging by the smell. He said friends elsewhere in Kainantu sent him messages describing cracked roads, broken pipes and fallen debris, but did not describe major building collapses or injuries.

“They start cleaning their houses and streets,” he said. Communications appeared to be affected, he added, with some cell towers possibly down.

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake in 2018 in the central region of the country killed at least 125 people. This earthquake struck areas that are remote and undeveloped, and estimates of the extent of damage and injuries are slowly filtering 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 earthquake, although its strength meant it “most likely caused significant damage”.

According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake was registered at 9:46 a.m. local time at a depth of 90 kilometers (56 miles). NOAA said there was no tsunami threat for the region.

Papua New Guinea is located in the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, east of Indonesia and north of eastern Australia. It lies 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 occur.

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