Five Dead, 1,000 Homes Destroyed In Papua New Guinea Earthquake

A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck Papua New Guinea on Monday, killing at least five people and destroying an estimated 1,000 dwellings, officials said as disaster personnel flocked into the area.

When the quake struck early Sunday morning, many of communities on the banks of the country’s famed Sepik River were already experiencing flooding.

“So far, around 1,000 homes have been lost,” said East Sepik Governor Allan Bird, adding that rescue teams were “still assessing the impact” of a tremor that “damaged most parts of the province”.

Provincial police commander Christopher Tamari told AFP that five people had died as a result of the accident.

Tamari said that with emergency teams still trekking into the remote and jungle-clad zone, the number of casualties “could be more”.

Photos showed damaged wooden buildings with thatched roofs sliding into knee-high floodwaters, while an aging bridge in Wewak, the provincial capital, broke under the strain.

Regional Governor Bird stated that there was an urgent need to bring medical supplies, clean drinking water, and temporary housing into the disaster zone.

Prime Minister James Marape has authorized a US$130 million emergency finance package to assist with recovery work following “a spate of natural disasters” around the country.

“Papua New Guinea has recently been hit hard by (the) earthquake, flooding caused by heavy rain and ensuing landslips, king tides, strong winds, and others,” he said in a statement released after the tremor on Sunday evening.

Flooding, landslides, and severe rains earlier this month killed at least 23 people in Papua New Guinea’s Central Highlands.

Climate risks 

The Sepik River flows for hundreds of kilometres through Papua New Guinea’s East Sepik region, from the jungle highlands to the tropical shore.

It is one of the country’s few pure streams, and the longest river on the island.

It had previously been referred to as the planet’s “second Amazon” due to its abundance of local species and unusual vegetation.

Earthquakes are widespread in Papua New Guinea, which is located on top of the seismic “Ring of Fire,” an arc of strong tectonic activity that extends over Southeast Asia and the Pacific basin.

Although they rarely cause extensive harm in the sparsely populated rainforest highlands, they can generate massive landslides.

Many of the island nation’s nine million residents live outside of major towns and cities, where rugged terrain and a lack of paved roads can severely impede search-and-rescue operations.

The 2022 World Risk Index ranks Papua New Guinea as the world’s 16th most vulnerable country to climate change and natural disasters.

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