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A powerful earthquake has struck the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea, damaging buildings and injuring a number of people just six weeks after a major tremor devastated the region, provincial authorities say.
The US Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.3 quake struck the Highlands on Saturday at a depth of 10 kilometres — much shallower than the devastating February 26 quake.
The 6.3 earthquake struck on Saturday as the region struggles to recover from a massive 7.5 quake only two months ago.
There were no immediate reports of damage or injury. The quake was 82km southwest of Porgera in Enga Province and 47km deep, said the USGS. Earlier European quake monitor EMSC reported it at 6.5 magnitude and only two kilometers deep, but later scaled it down.
Damage from the new earthquake could be extensive, local authorities said.
“It was a bad as the last earthquake, very bad,” the deputy administrator of Hela Province, Pius Pape, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Pape said he had been told the airstrip in the provincial capital, Tari, had been damaged again, which could hinder relief efforts.
According to ABC, the provincial hospital has treated a number of minor injuries and there were reports of deaths from some areas, but none have been confirmed.
Earthquakes are common in Papua New Guinea, which sits on the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire”, a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.
The magnitude 7.5 quake on February 26 killed 125 people and displaced an estimated 35,000 people.
Relief efforts in Hela Province have been hampered by recent tribal fighting, in which at least eight people have been killed.
Local authorities said they had not been able to contact the outlying districts worst-affected by the previous quake, but they feared the new quake had eroded what little progress had been made in providing aid and repairing infrastructure.
“I’m expecting there’s going to be a lot of damage,” Pape told ABC at the weekend.
Meanwhile, the PNG government has been urged to investigate the cause of the recent earthquake that caused destruction and loss of lives in the Highlands provinces of the country.
Sinasina Yongomugl MP Kerenga Kua said during grievance debate in Parliament that the people wanted answers whether the earthquake was natural or induced by exploration of oil and gas in the area.
“The series of the earthquake is of an unprecedented type both in its intensity and in its frequency, it is unprecedented usually you have a one-off earthquake of a certain magnitude and its over, but this one is almost like continuous, it hits off at a very high level and it maintains a high level for many days and even weeks and that is something completely unprecedented and somehow it coincides with the major projects, the gas extraction projects we have on-going in the country,” Kua said.
“Within the period of two years of the commencement of the gas project, big earthquake happens, it hits precisely the area where the projects are located, so it raises an obvious question in our minds. Is it mere coincidence an occurence by an act of nature or is there some connectivity to the human activities that is taking place in those localities? It is important for us to know, it is important also for our people to know what the answers are.
“For example if we find that it is induced by human activities then that knowledge alone will help us mitigate future incidence of that nature, and to take evasive action and that is within our powers to do that and if we did not know or if we refuse to know the answer than we will be inviting future further incidence of similar devastating magnitudes, more dense, more injuries, more damage to property and the environment and we will continue to come back to pull our hairs out trying to understand, find answers to do relief and do restoration,” he said
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS
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