The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in PNG has confirmed Tari, the capital of Hela Province, is likely to be the area most affected by Monday's 7.5 earthquake.
It said an aerial survey flight between Mt Hagen and Mendi observed large landslides and the area south of Komo in Hela province was also observed to be badly affected.
The government rapid assessment team has found widespread damage and destruction to homes, properties and infrastructure across Hela and Southern Highlands with a growing number of unconfirmed deaths and injuries.
Access to clean water is reported to be scarce in both provinces due to damage to water storage facilities and water sources.
Power disruptions and telecommunications remain a challenge in Tari with possibly more than 30 cell phone towers affected by the earthquake.
Tari airport is closed with all commercial flights temporarily suspended while Komo airstrip is unusable due to large surface cracks and damaged edges but Moro airport remains operational and Mendi airport also continues to receive flights.
There are several economically significant gas and mineral mining operations in the vicinity of the quake including the PNG LNG project, the Ok Tedi mine and Porgera mine.
The National Department of Mineral Policy and Geohazards Management said aftershocks are likely to continue for several weeks but they are expected to weaken with time.
STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED
Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, has declared a state of emergency for the Highlands earthquake disaster areas in Hela, Southern Highlands, Western and Enga Provinces.
Mr O'Neill said over US$140 million or K450 million had been approved for relief operations and to restore services, as well as the formation of an emergency disaster restoration team and the establishment of a restoration authority.
Mr O'Neill said Monday's 7.5 quake was an unprecedented disaster in the Highlands Region and the appropriate response is underway by the national government.
He said the declaration of the state of emergency expedites the restoration of essential public services including healthcare services, schools, road access, airports, power and communications facilities.
The prime minister said an emergency disaster restoration team will now manage and co-ordinate all restoration activities working with Provincial Authorities.
"The Emergency Disaster Restoration Team will be supported by Department of Works and Implementation, and all other relevant Government agencies," he said.
"Cabinet has further approved the establishment of a Restoration Authority that will manage long-term reconstruction efforts over a 4-year period to fully restore normalcy," he said.
"An emergency session of Parliament will be convened for the presentation of legislation that will establish the Restoration Authority, with the date of the session to be announced by the Speaker of Parliament."
The prime minister said relief efforts are already underway, and further assessments provided to focus operations to areas in need.
"Members of the PNGDF (PNG Defence Force) and disaster officers were dispatched to the affected areas immediately following the earthquake, and are working with Provincial Authorities, particularly with the Governors of Hela and Southern Highlands Provinces," he said.
"Essential government departments are already delivering relief, and we are further working with partners in the International Community to utilise specialist relief capabilities to reach our people and communities affected by the Earthquake."
KUTUBU AMONG COMMUNITIES WORST HIT
Communities in Kutubu in Papua New Guinea's earthquake-hit Southern Highlands province are in dire need of basic food, clean water and medical supplies.
EMTV reports that four days after the 7.5 earthquake struck the region, Kutubu remains cut off by road, with the only way into the area by aircraft.
It is being reported that the death toll across Lake Kutubu's communities is fifteen.
The quake has destroyed many homes and schools in Kutubu as is the case in other parts of the province.
Kutubu's main health centre is out of medical supplies, leaving many homeless people vulnerable.
While PNG's government has declared a state of emergency, basic emergency relief supplies are yet to reach Kutubu, as with most other affected areas in Southern Highlands, Hela and Western provinces.
Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, has sent his message of prayer, solidarity and condolence to the people of Papua New Guinea affected by the quake.
PNG Today reports the message was sent in a letter to the Catholic Bishops Conference by the Secretary of State in the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on behalf of Pope Francis.
The messaage says Pope Francis expresses his heartfelt prayers for all those affected by the disaster, and offers encouragement to the civil authorities and emergency personnel assisting vicitims of the tragedy.