28 Feb 2018

People in quake-hit PNG living in fear

2:32 pm on 28 February 2018

People in Papua New Guinea are still reeling in shock and fear from Monday's 7.5-magnitude earthquake.

A local police officer in the provincial capital Mendi, who asked not to be named, says the bodies of 11 people have been recovered within the township but they were unable to confirm deaths in other areas because most of the region's road networks have been cut off by massive landslips.

Aftershocks were still being felt following the quake and a heavy downpour this morning meant more landslides were expected.

Power and communication were down to some parts but PNG Power and Digicel had been working to restore them.

Transport links were still heavily disrupted in some areas and hampering relief efforts.

The police officer said people were terrified.

"The number of dead bodies recovered from within the town area in Mendi is about seven including four from the surrounding villages around the town. So the total of 11 bodies recovered."

He said it was the first major earthquake to hit the Southern Highlands in living memory.

"They are still living in fear, since Monday the strike it was very massive and then it is still continuing so people want to know the cause of the earthquake because this normally occurs down at the coastal areas. But Highlands we don't experience this, this is the first time," he said.

Meanwhile, national disaster authorities operating out of Mt Hagen were expected to try and reach badly affected areas like Tari today to carry out assessments after their attempts to do so yesterday were thwarted by bad weather.

An emergency meeting of the PNG cabinet is being held today.

PNG defence prepares to deploy after quake

Papua New Guinea's defence force is preparing to send medical teams and soldiers to areas struck by the 7.5 earthquake.

At the request of the PNG Government Australia was also, today, providing an Air Force Hercules to conduct aerial surveillance and provide logistical support to the PNG Defence Force.

Canberra said it stands ready to provide further assistance following the earthquake.

Colonel Raymond Numa, said the PNG defence force has sought assistance from the Australian Defence Force in logistics and aerial surveillance of provinces which may have also been hit by the earthquake.

He said the quake appeared to have hit, not only, the Highlands, but also some parts of Western Province, West and East Sepik.

He said deployments already in Hides, Mendi, Mt Hagen and Enga are all okay and ready to help assist affected people in the highlands.

O'Neill expects huge economic impact from quake

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill says the economy will be hard hit by the closure of the country's LNG gas project after Monday's massive earthquake.

The 7.5 magnitude quake hit the rugged highlands region which is home to infrastructure for the ExxonMobil-led project, the country's main export earner.

Mr O'Neill told The National it was unfortunate given the economy was slowly recovering.

He said he'd received reports project staff had been evacuated until it was structurally sound enough to open the gas and oil fields.

Mr O'Neill tried to reach quake hit areas yesterday but the helicopter he was travelling in was forced to turn back because of bad weather.

He said the quake would have a huge impact on PNG's economy, but experts would be involved in ensuring the fields were opened as soon as possible.

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