Quake halts production in PNG's southern highlands

Jeannie Matthews
March 28, 2018

Chris McKee, acting director of geohazards management for the Papua New Guinea government, told the AP that tens of thousands of people live in the forested highlands region affected by the quake.

The epicentre was about 96 kilometres south-west of Mendi, the capital of Southern Highlands province, a town of more than 50,000 people.

As of now, there have not been any deaths confirmed in Papua New Guinea related directly to the quake, though global humanitarian organization International Red Cross stated that it feared Papua New Guinea's staunch natural disaster most likely brought along "fears of human casualties".

State-owned Ok Tedi said that a landslip blocking roads would likely take several days to clear, but did not comment on any direct impact to operations.

"Until now there has been no reports of damage and casualties", Nugroho said. He said the quake was a disaster on a scale he hasn't experienced before.

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He said the Police Commander for the Southern Highlands Province had been in the capital Port Moresby and was returning home today by helicopter to further assess the situation.

ExxonMobil PNG said buildings at its Hides Gas Conditioning Plant were damaged but all its staff were "safe and accounted for", with non-essential employees to be evacuated.

Earthquakes are common in Papua New Guinea, which sits on the Pacific's "Ring of Fire", a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.

"A magnitude 7.5 event as this was should have ruptured massive areas of the crust (at least 80 km long) and propagated all the way to the surface", he said.

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