PNG provinces assessing impacts of 7.9 quake

1:20 pm on 18 December 2016

Provincial administrations in New Ireland and New Britain of Papua New Guinea are assessing impacts of last night's big earthquake.

A magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck about 50 kilometres east of Taron, on the south eastern coast of New Ireland, shortly before midnight NZT, or around 9pm PNG time.

The quake triggered a widespread tsunami warning for the Pacific Islands region which was downgraded within two hours.

PNG's Geophysical Observatory said a tsunami measuring less than 1-metre hit the coast of the island of New Ireland shortly after the earthquake.

The US Geological Survey revised the depth of the quake to 103km from the original 73km.

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Initial reports from the two provinces closest to the quake, New Ireland and East New Britain, indicate little damage, however remote communities nearest the epicentre are yet to contacted.

A spokesperson with the New Ireland provincial government, Monica Harris, said local level government representatives from New Ireland's south were investigating.

"The southern part of the island, down in Namatanai (district) and the Konoagil area, got a really good shake, but there's been no reports yet of any damage or injuries," she said.

Monica Harris said the provincial disaster team based in New Ireland's capital Kavieng was communicating with ships in the Konoagil area for initial assessments, after which a team was expected to be dispatched south for full evaluations.

Ataliklikun Bay, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

East New Britain's coastline, an area of seismic volatility where earthquakes are part of life. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

In East New Britain the provincial administration said disaster officers were on the ground now to assess the damage.

However ground reports from ENB's urban centres indicate little damage from the quake.

As in New Ireland, power was knocked out briefly in various parts of New Britain, but initial reports indicate minimal damage in the province.

Meanwhile, a nurse at the Buka General Hospital in PNG's nearby autonomous region of Bougainville, Tracey Anunfi, said houses were shaking and people were running for the hills.

"It was scary, it was frightening, the first of its kind, because it shook and lasted for minutes," she told RNZ.