PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea - A 7.6-magnitude earthquake shook Papua New Guinea on Sunday, damaging buildings, triggering landslides and killing at least four people, with several more severely injured.
The quake hit about 67km east of Kainantu and 80kms north-west of Lae in the eastern PNG region, at about 9.45am local time (7.45am Singapore time), but was felt some 500km away in the capital of Port Moresby.
The full extent of damage was not immediately clear as the location of the earthquake was remote. Earthquakes are common in PNG, which sits on the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire”, a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Asia and the Pacific said that at least 4 deaths and four injuries had been reported.
One person died in a landslide in Rai Coast, Madang, with three others buried in Wau, Morobe, the OCHA’s PNG disaster management team said in a report posted on Twitter.
There are limited communications in the area, little government resources and few paved roads, making assessment and rescue efforts difficult.
Some of the injured were airlifted for immediate treatment.
Small aviation companies and missionary groups were involved in airlifting some of the injured across the rugged jungle landscape.
"It's very difficult, the terrain, the weather. It's challenging," said Ms Nellie Pumai of Manolos Aviation, which had transported one person out and was trying to return.
In the eastern highland town of Goroka, residents captured images of window awnings falling off the cracked walls of a local university.
It was "very strong", said Ms Hivi Apokore, a worker at the Jais Aben Resort near the coastal town of Madang.
"Everything was like sitting on a sea – just floating."
The US Geological Survey initially issued a tsunami warning for nearby coastal areas, but subsequently said the threat had passed.
Fearful locals near the sea, nevertheless, fled for higher ground – reporting that the water level had suddenly dropped.
The nation's leader James Marape said the quake was "massive" and told people to be cautious, but said he expected the damage to be less than that from a 2018 quake that killed at least 126 people.
However, the scale of the damage and number of casualties was still unclear.
"National and provincial disaster agencies, as well as leaders, have been asked to assess the damage and injuries to people and attend to these as soon as possible," Mr Marape said.
State-backed communications firm DataCo said it was experiencing "multiple service disruptions" to the operation of a domestic undersea communications cable as well as the PIPE Pacific Cable 1 that runs from Sydney to Guam.
It was not yet clear if there was any damage to regional airports.
Earlier on Sunday, the US Geological Survey also reported two strong quakes in the remote Mentawai Islands off the western coast of Sumatra in neighbouring Indonesia.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, but the tremor sent residents on the Mentawai Islands fleeing to evacuation centres set up last week following another quake.
The Indonesia quake was felt in the city of Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province, where residents left their homes after the tremor shook buildings.
In 2004, a 9.1-magnitude quake off the coast of Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 people throughout the wider region, including about 170,000 in Indonesia. AFP, REUTERS