PNG quake kills 2, tremors shake Sumatra

Strong earthquakes strike two neighboring countries in Southeast Asia

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (AFP) — A 7.6-magnitude earthquake shook Papua New Guinea Sunday, damaging buildings, triggering landslides and killing at least two people, with several more severely injured.

The quake struck at a depth of 61 kilometers, about 67 kilometers from the town of Kainantu, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Residents in northern towns near the epicenter reported intense shaking mid-morning that cracked roads and sheared cladding off buildings.

Local member of parliament Kessy Sawang said at least two people had died in remote mountain villages, with at least four others airlifted to hospital in critical condition.

“There has been widespread damage,” she told AFP, adding that a landslide had buried homes and “split” one village where people had “lost their houses.”

There are limited communications in the area, little government resources and few paved roads, making assessment and rescue efforts difficult.

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,” Nellie Pumai of Manolos Aviation, which had transported one person out and was trying to return, said.

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,” Hivi Apokore, a worker at the Jais Aben Resort near the coastal town of Madang, said.

“Everything was like sitting on a sea — just floating.”

The quake was felt as far as the capital Port Moresby about 480 kilometers away.

The USGS initially issued a tsunami warning for nearby coastal areas, but subsequently said the threat had passed.

But fearful locals near the sea nevertheless fled for higher ground — reporting that the water level had suddenly dropped.

Sumatra quakes

Earlier Sunday, the USGS also reported two strong quakes in the remote Mentawai Islands off the western coast of Sumatra in neighboring Indonesia.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, but the tremor sent residents on the Mentawai Islands fleeing to evacuation centers 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, according to an AFP journalist.

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.

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