Huge earthquake hits Papua New Guinea, extent of damage unclear

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Renagi Ravu was meeting with colleagues at his home in the highlands of Papua New Guinea on Sunday morning when a massive 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck.

Ravu tried to get up from his chair but couldn’t keep his balance and ended up in a sort of group hug with his colleagues, as plates and cups fell from his shelves to the floor. His children aged 9 and 2 had their drinks and breakfast overflowed.

Ravu, a geologist, said he tried to calm everyone down as the shaking continued for more than a minute.

The extent of the damage and whether there were serious injuries or deaths from the earthquake was not clear in the immediate aftermath in the remote and underdeveloped region.

Ravu said about 10,000 people live in and around his city of Kanantu, which is 67 kilometers (42 miles) from the earthquake’s epicenter and was the closest major city to the quake. He said there are many scattered settlements in the highlands and tens of thousands of people may have been affected.

On Sunday morning, Ravu was still sorting out the damage to his home, which he said was likely a busted sewer pipe, judging by the smell. He said friends elsewhere in Kanantu had sent him messages describing broken pipes and fallen debris, but had not described any major building collapses or injuries.

An earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale in 2018 in the central region of the country killed at least 125 people. That quake hit remote and undeveloped areas, and assessments of the extent of damage and injuries were slowly being filtered out.

According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake occurred at 9:46 a.m. local time. According to the first measurements, the quake is at a depth of about 50 to 60 kilometers (30 to 40 miles).

NOAA has since advised that there is no tsunami threat to the area.

The extent of the damage is not yet clear, but the USGS estimates that “some casualties and damage are possible and the impact should be relatively localized”.

Papua New Guinea is located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, east of Indonesia and north of Eastern Australia.

It is located on the Pacific Ocean’s ‘Ring of Fire’, the arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where many of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic activity occur.

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