Magnitude 6.9 quake hits coast off Papua New Guinea, tsunami danger passes

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the shallow quake close to the coast, around 162km south-west of Rabaul.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the shallow quake close to the coast, around 162km south-west of Rabaul.PHOTO: USGS

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck off the southern coast of Papua New Guinea’s New Britain island on Friday (March 30), initially triggering a tsunami warning for surrounding coastlines, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. 

The shallow quake struck close to the coast, around 100 miles (162km) south-west of Rabaul, a much more remote region than the country’s mountainous mainland highlands where a magnitude 7.5 tremor struck on Feb 26, killing 100 people. 

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) issued a threat warning for the country’s coastline located within 300km of the quake’s epicentre, but later advised that the threat had passed. 

Dellie Minding, a receptionist at the Rabaul Hotel in the east of New Britain, around 20 minutes from the coast, told Reuters that the earthquake was felt, with many guests running outside, but there was no damage. 

At the Rapopo Plantation Resort on the coast, receptionist May Dovon said she had not heard of any casualties or damage. 

“We felt the earthquake, everything was moving so we went out of the building,” Dovon told Reuters.

“Nothing was damaged.”

Australian authorities said there was no threat to the Australian coastline from the quake, which was initially reported as a magnitude 7.2. 

Quakes 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.

Rabaul lies in the shadow of Mount Tavurvur, an active volcano that destroyed the town in 1994 during a severe eruption. 

The latest quake came as Papua New Guinea struggles to get aid to survivors of the Feb. 26 quake, which flattened whole villages and spoiled water supplies on the country’s main island. 

The impoverished country is also missing its largest revenue earner since the quake forced a shutdown of Exxon Mobil Corp’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, which has annual sales of US$3 billion (S$3.9 billion) at current LNG prices. The company is still assessing quake damage at its facilities.