PNG earthquake death toll now at 75

8:18 pm on 6 March 2018

The death toll in Papua New Guinea following last week's magnitude 7.5 earthquake has risen to 75.

A landslide cutting of the tambul mendi road following a 7.5 earthquake.

A landslide cutting of the tambul mendi road following a 7.5 earthquake. Photo: Andrew Solomon

The Highlands region was badly damaged in that tremor, and continues to be rattled by aftershocks as high as magnitude 6.

Much of remote Hela and Southern Highlands provinces were cut off by massive landslides, which has hampered the delivery of much-needed aid.

PNG journalist, Scott Waide, has just visited the region closest to the epicentre, including a village where 11 people died when the mountainside came crashing through.

He said he heard of a story about a boy whose whole family was killed in the quake.

"There's a chap who is in grade 5. He goes to school in Margarima - Margarima is very far away from his village. He came back to ask his parents for school fees [but] on his way back his whole family was wiped out - his siblings, his mother, his father and an uncle have all died. So he's the only one in the family left."

Govt announces direct funds for affected districts

PNG's government has announced the release of over 6 million US dollars (20 million kina) to the districts most affected by the quake.

Although it last week promised US$140 million for the overall relief effort, but provincial authorities say the relief is largely yet to materialise.

However amid criticism about the government's response, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill today said the government was transferring money to the most affected districts.

According to him, this allowed district administrators who were on the ground to coordinate relief immediately from local service providers.

Five districts are reportedly each receiving 600-thousand US dollars (2 million kina) in relief funds: Tari, Koroba-Kopiago and Komo-Margarima in Hela province, as well as Mendi and Nipa in Southern Highlands province.

Seven other districts are to get 300 thousand US dollars each (1 million kina): Imbonggu, Kagua-Erave and Ialibu-Pangia districts in Southern Highlands; Kandep and Laiagam in Enga province; as well as Telefomin in West Sepik province and North Fly of Western Province.

NZ Air Force helping with relief effort

Meanwhile, New Zealand's defence force said an Air Force plane was helping authorities in Papua New Guinea ferry aid supplies to the Highlands.

Major General Tim Gall said the Hercules aircraft delivered about eight tonnes of aid to Port Moresby yesterday.

He said that would ferry supplies - including food, water and sanitation equipment - to the Southern Highlands over the next two days.

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